Larry H. Miller dies at 64; Car-sales mogul owned NBAs Utah Jazz
Times Staff And Wire Reports|
Feb 21, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Larry H. Miller, the car-sales mogul who turned the Utah Jazz into one of the NBA's most stable teams, died Friday at his home in Salt Lake City from complications of type 2 diabetes, the team announced. He was 64.
Miller had a heart attack in June, then spent nearly two months in the hospital. He was in a wheelchair after his release, and his medical problems continued, leading to the amputation of his legs 6 inches below the knee in January.
Miller's oldest son, Greg, took over last August as chief executive of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.
A tireless worker with a knack for the most minute details, Miller started his career in an auto parts shop, then built a car dealership empire that made him one of Utah's most recognized and influential people. Miller expanded his realm in 1985 when he bought a 50% share of the Jazz as the team appeared on the verge of moving to Miami.
Miller bought the rest of the team a year later, declining an offer that would have sent the Jazz to Minnesota, and the team in the smallest media market in the NBA flourished. The Jazz made two straight appearances in the NBA finals in 1997 and 1998.
Other sports-related businesses Miller owned are the EnergySolutions Arena in downtown Salt Lake City, where the NBA team plays; the minor league baseball team Salt Lake Bees, an Angels affiliate; and Miller Motorsports Park, an auto and motorcycle racetrack near Salt Lake City. His holdings also included an independent TV station in Utah.
Miller was born April 26, 1944, in Salt Lake City. A college dropout, he opened his first Toyota dealership in Murray, Utah, in 1979 and eventually expanded his car-sales operations to 39 locations in Albuquerque, Denver, Phoenix and other cities in the western U.S.
Miller bought his first movie theater complex in 1999.
In 2006, gay-rights groups called for a boycott of Miller's businesses after he ordered "Brokeback Mountain," the Ang Lee film about a romance between two cowboys, to be pulled from his theaters.
"I pulled the movie because of social concerns over the family, that's all," Miller said at the time.
Active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he contributed to numerous Utah charities.
Survivors include his wife of 44 years, Gail; four sons; a daughter; 21 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.