Rugby: New Zealand body seals $180m deal with US private equity firm

WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand rugby secured a lucrative but controversial investment from US private equity firm Silver Lake on Thursday (February 17) after allaying fears from the players’ union that the deal risked tarnishing the legacy famous All Blacks.

The partnership will see Silver Lake invest NZ$200 million (S$180 million) in a joint business entity, which will remain majority-owned by New Zealand Rugby.

Institutional investors will have the option to purchase an additional NZ$100 million stake later this year, although New Zealand Rugby will retain approximately 90% ownership.

New Zealand Rugby described the deal as “transformative” for the cash-strapped body, ensuring financial stability and providing money for priorities including women’s and grassroots rugby.

“This partnership provides rugby with an extraordinary opportunity to secure its future and unlock its true potential – we are truly excited about what we can achieve with Silver Lake’s world-class capabilities,” said the neo-rugby chief executive. Zealander, Mark Robinson.

It follows nearly two years of sometimes acrimonious negotiations when the New Zealand Rugby Players Association threatened to veto the deal.

NZRPA chairman David Kirk, who told AFP last year he feared the investment could lead to the sale of the All Blacks to commercial interests, said he now backs the partnership.

“The deal provides capital on a sound economic basis,” he said.

New Zealand rugby chairman Stewart Mitchell acknowledged the tensions but was confident his organization had lived up to its responsibilities as “gatekeepers of the game”.

“The journey to get here has not been easy at times, there has been healthy debate and some adjustments from all parties, but always with the good of the game at the heart of this process,” he said. declared.

As part of the deal, Silver Lake is getting a stake in NZR’s commercial rights and will provide its expertise to expand the All Blacks’ digital footprint to generate revenue from the three-time world champions’ global fan base.

“Digital technologies are transforming all sport, and we look forward to bringing our global network and resources to help New Zealand rugby drive innovation and take advantage of all the opportunities ahead,” said Stephen Evans. , General Manager of Silver Lake.

The deal values ​​New Zealand Rugby’s business interests at NZ$3.5 billion.

Silver Lake was originally seeking a 12.5% ​​stake in the business entity, but the players’ union feared it would give the company too much power.

The Americans focus on the All Blacks, recognized worldwide as the benchmark of rugby union and well known even to casual fans for their fearsome pre-match haka challenge.

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