Coal mining magnate revealed as Crusaders money man

Photo: Hannah Peters / Getty Images
Photo: Hannah Peters / Getty Images
Coal mining magnate Brent Francis has been unveiled as the money man behind what will be a financial strengthening of the Crusaders rugby franchise.

Brent Francis. Photo: Supplied
Brent Francis. Photo: Supplied
The franchise confirmed to The Star this week Francis is the Crusaders private equity partner.

Negotiations have been ongoing since last year when The Star revealed the most successful Super Rugby franchise was looking for a private equity partner after getting a revolutionary licencing agreement with New Zealand Rugby.

Francis, who has a long association with the Crusaders, is its current deputy chair and chief executive and majority shareholder of the New Zealand Coal & Carbon group.

The group is a big player in the coal mining and carbon industry. The Crusaders would not reveal details of what the private equity partnership was worth.

Crusaders chairman Grant Jarrold said the partnership would give it room to pursue some ambitions with shareholders, including growing the brand worldwide where it has traditionally strong fan bases. 

“It also gives us a chance to advance plans to participate in a possible world club championship,” said Jarrold.

The Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders and Blues have all had private investors as part of their business model, while the Crusaders have been run by six provincial unions, led by Canterbury and Tasman.

Grant Jarrold. Photo: Supplied
Grant Jarrold. Photo: Supplied
Jarrold said when the club’s perpetual licence to operate was granted in 2021, its partnership relationships needed to evolve to that of key investors.

“PwC led a process on behalf of the Crusaders to find new equity investors in our business and that process uncovered some exceptional local people, any of whom would have made worthy Crusaders partners,” he said.

“We were fortunate to be approached by individuals who impressed us with their passion for our region, their innovation within their own ventures, and the networks and connections they had.

“The Crusaders, the provincial unions and Brent Francis all agreed on this approach and new structure. Brent has a proven and long-standing relationship with us.

“Brent has been underwriter for the club for a number of years and we’re extremely grateful for his loyalty, his passion for rugby in our region, and all he’s done to ensure the long-term viability and success of the Crusaders.

“The capital received was sufficient to repair the club’s balance sheet post-Covid, meet New Zealand Rugby’s requirements to participate in the Super Rugby Pacific competition, and allows us to not only realise our local ambitions, but look beyond New  Zealand to grow our brand globally.”

Francis has long standing connections to the West Coast and is a supporter of the West Coast and Buller unions. 

He has been a Crusaders board member since 2012, when the franchise was established as a limited partnership. Francis has been an underwriter since that time and his support alongside that of the provincial unions has ensured the club has had the necessary resources to compete in Super Rugby through some difficult financial conditions, said Jarrold.