US private equity firm Silver Lake on Thursday secured a NZ$200 million (US$134m) stake in the famed All Blacks, with New Zealand Rugby overwhelmingly endorsing the deal.
The 89-to-one vote, which closes a heated two-year negotiation pitting rugby bosses against their players’ association and provincial unions, was described by New Zealand Rugby chairman Stewart Mitchell as a “monumental moment in the history of rugby in New Zealand”.
The All Blacks, with a winning Test record of more than 77 percent and having won three of the nine Rugby World Cups, are one of the most successful teams in world sport.
But, critics say they have not capitalised on their marketability in a way other leading brands in sports such as Formula One and European and English football have done.
Silver Lake is expected to provide expertise in areas such as broadcast, sponsorship, and digital technology innovations.
Right up until the vote, New Zealand’s 26 provincial unions were seeking assurances they would not be sidelined and there would be benefits for the game at the grassroots level.
The deal sees Silver Lake — a fund manager specialising in private equity investments and whose growing stable of sports interests already includes Manchester City — pay NZ$200 million for a 5.8 per cent stake in a new commercial entity operated by NZR.
An additional investment of NZ$100 million will later be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors and Silver Lake’s holding could rise to 8.58 percent depending on the share uptake.
New Zealand Rugby was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, losing NZ$40 million in 2020 and its provinces have been losing money for several years as spectator and player numbers fall.
But, NZR chief executive Mark Robinson believes if money floods in under the Silver Lake deal it could enable a new pay structure with the players and provinces
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