2023 Utah Business Leaders of the Year: Utah Jazz Executive Team
The Utah Jazz Executive Team
Utah Business is proud to present the inaugural cohort of our Utah Business Leaders of the Year award. These 12 honorees represent the greatest accomplishments of Utah’s business community in 2023 and were selected by the Utah Business editorial team.
2023 Utah Jazz highlight reel would showcase the many times players thrilled fans from the court—but it would be incomplete without clips of the many times the team’s executive leadership thrilled fans from the back office.
The year started out with the Jazz hosting the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend, the success of which had more riding on it than most realized. Just as the outcome of our 1993 All-Star Weekend was pivotal to Salt Lake’s successful 2002 Winter Olympics bid, the success of this year’s All-Star Weekend certainly factored into the International Olympic Committee’s decision to recommend the games return in 2034.
“Having venues, including the Delta Center, already operating at a high level is a big part of the Olympic site selection process,” says Utah Jazz President Jim Olson, who launched his career with the Jazz in 1994 as a ticket operations manager.
John Larson started with the Jazz in 1991, as controller of the nascent Delta Center. While his contributions to the success of the 2023 All-Star Weekend were many, he humbly only takes credit for the weekend’s great weather.
The home of the Utah Jazz was called the Delta Center for its first 15 years. Many grew so endeared to the name that they never stopped using it. That source of cognitive dissonance came to an end this year with the return of Delta Airlines as naming rights partner.
Chris Barney worked his way to chief commercial officer after starting as an account executive in 2007. Barney led the naming rights negotiation, confronting the challenge of aligning the interests of the Jazz, Delta, Vivint and thousands of nostalgic fans.
“The theme of 2023 has been giving gifts to fans, and we designed Jazz+ to create the fan experience we’ve never been able to offer.”
“There were times when I wondered whether it was going to happen, and I’d sit with Jim and brainstorm until we found ways around the roadblocks,” Barney says.
“This is the first time in NBA history that an arena has inked a deal with a returning naming rights partner,” says Texas native Andrea Williams who joined the Jazz two years ago as the first chief experience officer.
The year ended with the launch of the Jazz+ app, built from the ground up in just 50 days. Olson considers Jazz+ “one of the NBA’s biggest success stories this year.”
“The theme of 2023 has been giving gifts to fans, and we designed Jazz+ to create the fan experience we’ve never been able to offer, by streaming every game and also original content to bring fans closer to the team than ever,” says Chief Communications Officer Caroline Klein, the team’s newest addition.
The ticket stub that admitted General Counsel Sam Harkness to his first Jazz game—played in the Salt Palace in 1989—sits framed on his wall. Of all the gifts given to fans in 2023, he feels the most enthusiastic about the return of live games to KJZZ.
“I grew up watching Jazz games on TV. To have that back the same year the Delta Center returns—it feels like everything’s pointing in the right direction,” Harkness says. “These deals are great not just for the organization but for the fans.”