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The Epic Life of Larry H. Miller

By: Scott Schulte

April 9, 2009

Greg Miller recalls countless memories of his father, the late Larry H. Miller, but says one in particular sums up his father’s keen business sense. After driving a short distance to Salt Lake to grab a bite to eat, the elder Miller drove past a parking spot available right in front of the restaurant. “My dad drove by it and I asked what he was doing,” Greg Miller says. “It was a great spot, right there. My father explained that he wanted to find a spot that had more time on the meter, so he wouldn’t have to put any money in it.” Larry Miller, the master of Salt Lake business, found his spot. “We ended up walking as far as we would have if we’d just walked from where we had started at the meeting,” Greg Miller says. “But to my father, he’d made the right decision because he saved himself a little bit of money, even though it was a very small amount.” A Business Legacy With drive and self-motivation, Larry Miller built himself into a successful entrepreneur and multi-millionaire business leader. Born to a father who worked in an oil refinery and a homemaker mother in 1959, Miller planted the seeds for his future early in life. As a school boy, Miller used his savvy natural business skills to acquire more baseball cards, marbles, stamps and other childhood goodies than the average kid in the neighborhood. He had an innate ability to turn nothing into something and then into something big. Upon graduating from Salt Lake’s West High in 1962, Miller began working as a framer with his uncle’s construction company. The following year, Miller moved to Denver where he played professional fast pitch softball and became parts manager with Stevenson Toyota dealership. As the velocity of his pitches increased, so did sales in the parts department. In fact, Miller took the Stevenson parts department from one of the worst in the country to the top selling department in the nation—all in less than three years. Under Miller’s guidance, Stevenson became the first Toyota dealership in the nation to ever earn $1 million in a year and then $2 million in a year. In an article published on May 2, 1999, Gene Osborn, a partner in the Stevenson dealership said, “Larry did a phenomenal job. He was intense and committed to his job.” It was that intensity and confidence that brought Miller back to Salt Lake where he made his big mark. On May 1, 1979, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies was officially born when Miller opened Larry H. Miller Toyota in Murray. That bold move was just the first step of many in his becoming one of the biggest names in Utah business and professional sports. In the following years, Miller went on to create or purchase nearly 100 businesses and properties across the West. While the Utah Jazz and EnergySolutions Arena are Miller’s most well known businesses, the savvy kid from West High also had his hands in a number of other interests, including the Salt Lake Bees, Miller Motorsports Park, Megaplex Theatres, 39 automobile dealerships and numerous real estate holdings including commercial and agricultural properties. “Larry’s legacy extends beyond the NBA as he touched many lives in the Salt Lake City region through his business ventures and charitable endeavors,” says David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). “The NBA lost a great leader, colleague and friend. We will miss him.” Creating Community Larry Miller enjoyed giving back to the community as much as he enjoyed cheering for the Jazz. Over the years, his famous statement became, “Go about doing good until there is too much good in the world.” Larry H. Miller Charities, a foundation funded by monthly contributions from his businesses, community fundraising events and personal donations from employees, has donated millions of dollars to local communities throughout the Beehive State. “Larry and Gail have always stressed the importance of giving back to the communities in which we do business. Our customers have supported us and it is important that we show our appreciation by helping those in need,” says Greg Miller. “Larry felt that his legacy isn’t in business as much as it was in creating opportunities for good jobs and higher education.” Miller oversaw the quiet donations of millions of dollars to Utah-based colleges and universities for campus improvements, such as the state-of-the-art softball and baseball complexes at BYU. The Larry H. Miller Campus of the Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) was completed in fall 2001 and includes the Larry H. Miller Entrepreneurship Training Center and The Larry and Gail Miller Public Safety Education & Training Center. Larry and Gail Miller also provide approximately 300 college scholarships each school year. A True Family Man At the end of the day, however, the man known around the world as the wonder of the Utah Jazz remained most proud of his family, which includes four sons and one daughter, 21 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “When my father was getting toward the end, the one thing he lamented was that he didn’t spend more time with us as his children,” Greg Miller said. “Our family was really the most important thing in my father’s life. We all knew it.” Greg Miller told this and other stories about his father, just weeks after his passing. On this day of remembrance, it was Greg Miller’s first day as CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. “I was trained and prepared by great people for this, but up until now I’ve always had my father there as my backstop,” Greg Miller says. “Today is the first day I am completely on my own.” Be that as it may, though, Greg Miller certainly hasn’t spent time lamenting or fretting over the circumstances. Such actions are not the Miller way. “When I was driving into the office today, I wasn’t thinking about being sad or nervous,” Greg Miller says. ‘I was thinking about the meetings and other things that needed to be done. My father wouldn’t want me to be thinking of anything but getting the job done.”

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