Major League Soccer’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of Real Salt Lake and the club’s associated properties to David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s Smith Entertainment Group (SEG), MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced today.
This transaction includes Rio Tinto Stadium, Zions Bank Training Center and RSL Academy in Herriman, Utah.
Blitzer adds Real Salt Lake as a central piece of an ever-expanding sports and entertainment portfolio, which includes teams in the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga. His holdings also include leading sports and entertainment assets such as the Prudential Center and several other sports entities worldwide.
SEG, the investment entity led by Ryan Smith, adds Real Salt Lake to a portfolio that also includes the National Basketball Association's Utah Jazz and associated team properties. SEG is focused on sports, technology and entertainment investment opportunities impacting Utah, and Real Salt Lake is an integral piece of the community that has tremendous alignment with the Utah Jazz.
“The combination of David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s SEG form a dream partnership for Real Salt Lake,” said Garber. “David and Ryan’s teams have become synonymous with how athletics and community intersect, as they have demonstrated leading world-class organizations outside of professional soccer. Both understand the tremendous value that sports teams bring to a community, and they are deeply committed to Utah. This is a proven ownership group that brings resources and experience to elevate every aspect of the RSL organization.”
Blitzer and SEG become the third ownership group in club history, acquiring teams and related properties from Dell Loy Hansen (2013-21), after the club was founded and owned by Dave Checketts (2004-13).
The acquisition by Blitzer and Smith includes Real Salt Lake (MLS), Real Monarchs (MLS NEXT Pro), Rio Tinto Stadium and all related soccer assets in both Sandy and Herriman, including the Zions Bank Training Center and Zions Bank Stadium. Blitzer and Smith also obtain ownership of the RSL Academy and its local and regional youth affiliates.
“My family and I are thrilled to partner with Ryan Smith and his SEG team on the acquisition of Real Salt Lake,” said Blitzer. “Ryan’s track record with Qualtrics as a technology innovator and leader in the state of Utah made his SEG group the ideal partner. Together, we look forward to leveraging our experiences to take Real Salt Lake to even greater heights.
“Real Salt Lake is a world-class club with an amazing fanbase, strong infrastructure and a longstanding commitment to the Utah community. We will work to build upon the legacy and tradition of Real Salt Lake by investing not only in the team and its facilities, but also in the communities our team serves. We have the opportunity to use Real Salt Lake’s unique platform to drive positive change on the pitch, in the local community and across Utah. We are excited and honored to be a part of what the future holds.”
“My wife Ashley and I are 100% committed to the State of Utah. As my partners and I looked to expand SEG, it was clear that Real Salt Lake is an amazing asset for Utah, exemplifies the way we want to invest and be involved here, and David Blitzer is the perfect partner," said Smith. “David has world-class soccer experience, is a person of integrity, and has a strong commitment to elevate the organizations and communities he is invested in. There is an incredible soccer community here in Utah from youth and outreach programs to the passionate RSL supporters and fans. We look forward to continuing to work with the region and state to do big things with professional sports.”
In addition to Blitzer and SEG, Arctos Sports Partners, the first institutional investor focused exclusively on taking minority stakes in professional sports franchises and leagues, joins the Real Salt Lake ownership group as a limited partner. To date, Arctos has made more than 20 investments across the big 5 North American Leagues and European Soccer leagues since its founding in 2019.
Following the MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas on Jan. 11, Real Salt Lake players report to preseason training Jan. 16 at the Zions Bank Training Center. The club returns to regular-season action on Feb. 27 to kick off the 2022 campaign at Houston Dynamo FC.
The following weekend, on Saturday, Mar. 5, the Claret-and-Cobalt return to Rio Tinto Stadium to host Seattle Sounders FC for the home opener. In 2021, Real Salt Lake had a 9-4-4 home record, set a new club mark for most consecutive home wins (seven), and advanced to the Western Conference Final. They’re entering their first full season under head coach Pablo Mastroeni.