• Why ‘control’ is key for WPRFU investment

    Prospective WP Rugby investor Marco Masotti says there are clear reasons why a controlling share would be an integral condition of any potential acquisition, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    Masotti is a New York-based lawyer with a reputation that precedes him (full bio here). He grew up in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban, and earned his law degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 1991, while he remains an ardent rugby fan.

    Masotti is now primarily leading an expression of interest to invest about $6 million (almost R100m) in WP Rugby – $4m in the Stormers and $2m in the union.

    Earlier in July, he requested a 45-day exclusivity agreement to enter into talks with WPRFU and to conduct his due diligence into the franchise and to consider a workable solution.

    READ: Why prospective investor sees value in Stormers

    Masotti confirmed he had conducted a Zoom chat with WPRFU president Zelt Marais, but that a ‘deal-breaker’ element of his investment consideration revolved around the desire for a controlling stake.

    In an exclusive interview with SARugbymag.co.za on Tuesday, Masotti explained the reasoning behind that stipulation.

    ‘I can’t do it without that, or to get bogged down into a complicated control situation. Every sports team here [in America], maybe bar one – the Green Bay Packers – has a controlling governor. In fact, it’s even a rule of the NBA. You’d have to have the ability to run it like a business, and I think everyone would benefit from that, including the union.

    ‘I’m sitting in New York, so the most important and critical part of a sporting business would be to have the right COO [chief operating officer] and management, and to empower them to conduct best business practices. I’m a corporate lawyer, so of course I don’t want to lose money, and I’d want to see the team be successful and the stadium full.’

    Although control would need to be a condition of any agreement, Masotti reiterated this would not mean the union would be ostracised.

    ‘When I chatted to Zelt and indicated the need for a controlling share, I said the union would remain an important partner and would be a major minority shareholder. He voiced some concern in that they had alway held rights when it comes to “rugby matters”, and we discussed what that meant, and he said he would get back to me on the type of things the union would need on the side of the control condition.’

    Masotti added that he had a number of clients who had successfully invested in sports teams in America with great success, which is a formula he would look to tap into.

    ‘It’s primarily me [looking at this opportunity], but I do have a few close relationships with people, who are mostly private equity and hedge fund people, and actually most are also Stormers fans who are interested in co-investing with me.’

    READ: US consortium eyes WP investment

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    Craig Lewis