The Larry H. Miller Company is Building Communities

The Founder Series from Utah Business Magazine is a column by and about Utah founders and how they got to where they are today. 

By Steve Starks

While working with Gov. Jon Huntsman in 2005, I became acquainted with Larry Miller—a larger-than-life business leader who suggested I forego business school and join his company instead. The opportunity to work with Larry, alongside other great leaders in the company and community, helped prepare me for future responsibilities within the organization and in capacities outside of work. 

I am inspired by something Gail Miller recently said to a small group of community leaders: “Change is inevitable, but we must do more than simply change. We need to improve, and improving takes knowing what needs keeping and what needs fixing. Having that kind of discernment requires being involved.”  

As leaders, we must resist the temptation to implement change simply for change’s sake. Wise leaders discern when and where to evolve and innovate while honoring the past and recognizing the values, guiding principles, and proven strategies that enable success. 

Over the years, the Larry H. Miller Company has worked to balance this dynamic as the organization transformed from a single Toyota dealership to a sprawling portfolio of companies and investments.  

The pandemic: A catalyst for continued transformation

When I became CEO in late 2019, I could have never imagined that our organization would be significantly impacted by a global pandemic just a few months later. Rudy Gobert’s positive Covid test thrust our organization into the forefront of the pandemic and led to the postponement of the NBA season, the canceling of March Madness, and the shuttering of public venues and gatherings across the country. 

Just months into this new role, I needed the support of a great team and the opportunity to think collaboratively with the Miller family and other leaders throughout Utah and across the country. These conversations served as a catalyst for our company to innovate and transform, including the decision to sell the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Automotive. Both transactions were driven by specific points of view on the industries and a desire to build a more diverse portfolio of companies and investments. 

Fast forward two years, and you will see the company’s transformation in earnest. While Megaplex Theatres, the Salt Lake Bees, and Prestige Financial remain part of the Larry H. Miller family of businesses, we have also made several acquisitions and are building an incredible team to support and lead the future growth of the organization. 

Investing in companies 

As a family-owned business, the Larry H. Miller Company takes a long-term approach rather than being subject to a short-term quarter-to-quarter mentality. Because of this, we invest in and have opportunities to acquire other family-owned and founder-led companies that share a long-term view and are values-based. 

We recently announced that LHM acquired a majority stake in Swig, the fast-growing customized drink and treats company. Together with the founders and Savory Fund, we will accelerate Swig’s national expansion through corporate-owned and franchised stores. 

In addition to Swig, LHM has invested in over 20 companies across multiple sectors. Investing in great companies and helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses is foundational to our belief in the value of a strong economic ecosystem—aimed at doing good and enriching the community through the “virtuous cycle” of investing, growing, providing great jobs, paying taxes, and giving back. 

Advance Health Care Collage

Acquiring a best-in-class healthcare company 

An example of our investment strategy is our acquisition of Utah-based Advanced Health Care from the Nattress family. Advanced Health Care owns and operates post-acute skilled nursing facilities and home health and hospice services across the country. Advanced Health Care’s facilities carry a five-star rating due to patient reviews and the high-quality care provided to each patient. 

Each facility provides single-patient rooms and delivers exceptional individual care. Our length of stay is 31 percent lower than the national average, and we are an industry leader in lowering hospital readmission rates. Under the leadership of the experienced team that runs Advanced Health Care, we are expanding nationally and are growing our continuum of care by adding an assisted living community in Lehi named Aspen Ridge. 

Daybreak home near water

Acquiring Daybreak and building a real estate platform

 In 2021, the Larry H. Miller Company acquired the mixed-use master-planned community of Daybreak, which includes over 1,300 acres of undeveloped land in the vibrant and fast-growing southwest quadrant of Salt Lake County. As part of the Daybreak acquisition, we are fortunate to welcome an incredibly talented team to LHM that brings decades of experience designing and creating master-planned communities.  

Daybreak is a nationally recognized community and provides residents with a mixture of housing options that include apartments, condos, townhomes, and larger single-family homes knit together in strong neighborhoods. In addition to the residential elements of the community, we are working with stakeholders to create a mixed-use commercial, retail, and civic center called Downtown Daybreak. Downtown Daybreak is ideally situated along strong transportation infrastructure, including the TRAX line and Mountain View Corridor. 

In our community-building endeavors, we are fortunate to partner with municipalities, landowners, and other companies who have a shared commitment to enriching the community. We were recently awarded the opportunity to design and develop a 1,000-plus-acre master-planned community in Utah County. In addition, we have several other community design and development projects throughout the Wasatch Front and in Summit County. 

Earlier this year, we also acquired Destination Homes, a high-quality residential home builder focused on craftsmanship. The team at Destination Homes has become an integral component of our real estate platform and will participate in the various communities we help develop. 

Sports and entertainment 

We’re proud to continue to own Megaplex Theatres, one of the top-performing theater chains in the country. While streaming services have created additional viewing options, we believe blockbuster movies are best enjoyed on the big screen, where memories are created and experiences can be shared with loved ones. 

The Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, remain a big part of the Larry H. Miller portfolio. We love summer nights at the ballpark and are currently working to ensure we have a first-class and family-friendly baseball stadium and surrounding amenities for baseball fans and the community. 

Given the Miller family’s history in sports and entertainment, the Larry H. Miller Company remains passionate about helping the community remain at the forefront of high-quality sports, recreational opportunities, and entertainment options. Whether it is through our ownership of the Bees and Megaplex, passionately cheering on the Jazz and Real Salt Lake, or actively supporting the effort to secure a future Winter Olympic Games, we remain all-in on building the community through sports and entertainment. 

A history of transformation 

I am often asked how Larry would feel about the transformation of the company he founded. I usually answer this by recounting an experience we all had with Larry in his hospital room the week he passed away. He invited our executive leadership team to visit him one last time so he could express his gratitude and so we could all say our goodbyes. In that moment, Larry encouraged us to run the company as we saw best, rather than be confined or limited by the way he operated the company. This was a powerfully liberating moment for the Miller family and those of us who were present.  

In the years that followed Larry’s passing, the company doubled in size as measured by both revenue and employee count. Greg Miller, as CEO, respected the lessons he learned from Larry but also led with his own style and made several key decisions that helped positively transform the organization. 

Gail determined that for the organization to thrive in the future, she needed to put in place both a durable estate plan and a formal governance structure. She created a board of directors comprised of experienced business executives from diverse backgrounds. The board’s experience spans multiple industries and ownership structures—an enormous strength to the company and our executive leaders.

Creating a board wasn’t just a change; it was an evolution that made the Larry H. Miller Company better. Gail recently named her son Steve Miller chairman of the board of directors. This transition represents years of planning and a commitment to ensuring that future generations of the Miller family are prepared to lead the company.

Group photo with Gail and Karen

The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation

Perhaps what I am most proud of is the evolution of the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation. With the sale of the Jazz and the automotive dealerships, it may have been tempting for Gail—who has been in the public arena nearly all her adult life—to sail into a quiet retirement. Rather than consuming the gains from these transactions, Gail has become one of Utah’s most powerful forces for good. Her philanthropic leadership will leave an enduring legacy of enriching the community. 

When Larry passed away, many people were curious about what LHM would become and whether the organization would be as committed to the community as he had been. Gratefully, both Gail and the next generation of Miller family members have carried on and expanded that legacy beyond what even Larry may have imagined. The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation is evolving and seeking to make a transformative impact in our communities.  

As the Larry H. Miller Company has evolved and transformed over the decades, we are guided by the timeless values of hard work, service, stewardship, and integrity. Our mission is to enrich lives. These values guide our decision-making and serve as a guiding light as we improve, evolve, and transform. 

 Click here to read past articles in the series in Utah Business Magazine.

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