After a drawn-out process, MLS’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of Real Salt Lake and the club’s associated properties, including Rio Tinto Stadium and Real Monarchs (MLS NEXT Pro), to David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s Smith Entertainment Group (SEG).
Blitzer will serve as Governor for Real Salt Lake with SEG appointed to the alternate Governor role. This purchase also includes Zions Bank Training Center and RSL Academy in Herriman, Utah.
Both are veteran operators in the sports word, with Blitzer part of ownership groups in the NBA, NHL, English Premier League and the German Bundesliga, as well as sports and entertainment assets such as the Prudential Center. Ryan Smith’s SEG adds Real Salt Lake to a portfolio that also includes the NBA’s Utah Jazz, MiLB’s Salt Lake Bees, and associated team properties. SEG is focused on sports, technology and entertainment investment opportunities impacting Utah.
The sale also includes a small private-equity component: 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; most recently Arctos purchased a small stake in the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first such private-equity investment in the NHL.
“The combination of David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s SEG form a dream partnership for Real Salt Lake,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber via press release. “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).
“My family and I are thrilled to partner with Ryan Smith and his SEG team on the acquisition of Real Salt Lake,” David Blitzer said via press release. “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.”
“My wife Ashley and I are 100 percent 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 Ryan Smith via press release. “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.”