New Zealand Rugby approves Silver Lake's deal

New Zealand Rugby has voted unanimously to sell a 12.5 percent stake in its commercial interests to US private equity firm Silver Lake.

The vote by the 26 provincial unions and the Māori Rugby Board was done by voice at the annual general meeting in Wellington this morning. There were no dissenters.

The deal would be worth $387.5 million to New Zealand Rugby (NZR). Documents released for the AGM outlined that $39m of the sale price will be distributed to stakeholders such as provincial unions and a legacy fund will be established to ensure the sustainability of rugby at all levels.

However the deal is not complete as it requires sign off from the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA).

The association's discussions with NZR have been put on hold for a couple weeks, with the parties unable to agree on how the money from the deal will be split between players and a legacy fund.

The players have previously expressed concerns over pay and on whether the deal could damage the relationship between rugby and the New Zealand public, and want assurances cultural aspects such as the haka are protected.

NZR chair Brent Impey said in a statement it was disappointing that the Players Association had not given its consent.

New Zealand Rugby will ask for approval for the Silver Lake deal on Thursday. Photo: RNZ
The deal would be worth $387.5 million to New Zealand Rugby (NZR). Photo: RNZ

"The game has to change, and Silver Lake's capital injection would allow us to re-imagine rugby and invest in the areas of the community game that need it most, particularly teenage and women's rugby, and to create better and more engaging experiences for our fans.

 

"We hope the NZRPA will realise the significance of the opportunity in front of us and will continue to work toward an agreement in coming weeks."

Sports Minister Grant Robertson has urged all parties to work together for the good of the game. "I just encourage both parties to continue talking because for the good of the game we need our elite players to be well looked after, happy to be playing here, and carrying on supporting the next generation coming though," he said.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said the 2020 balance sheet was a reflection of rugby's adaptability and resilience.

"A year ago we were facing a collapse of more than 60 percent of our revenue and had to make some hard decisions.

"From the Heartland unions' decision to cancel their representative season, to the extra hours our staff and players have put in, the past year has been difficult, and we acknowledge the hardships felt by our people at all levels across the game."

Robinson said private equity would resource the areas most in need at clubs and provincial unions.

NZR announced a $18.7m operating loss and total loss of $34.6m for the year. The annual loss included a further $16m writedown of Sky Television shares.

The players have previously expressed concerns over pay and on whether the deal could damage the relationship between rugby and the New Zealand public, and want assurances cultural aspects such as the haka are protected.

Sports Minister Grant Robertson has urged all parties to work together for the good of the game. "I just encourage both parties to continue talking because for the good of the game we need our elite players to be well looked after, happy to be playing here, and carrying on supporting the next generation coming though," he said.

Impey, who has championed the deal with Silver Lake, has confirmed he is stepping down from the role he has held since 2014.

Sir Michael Jones is to step down from the NZR Board to commit more time to his family, community and work, the organisation announced.

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