• American investors look to Sharks

    American consortium MVM Holdings could look to close an investment with the Sharks as a viable alternative if sluggish talks with WP Rugby continue to stall. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

    In mid-November, a news release – adorned with a metaphorical silver lining – suggested that negotiations with MVM Holdings were going ahead following a positive meeting between the parties in Cape Town.

    WP Professional Rugby chairman Ebrahim Rasool and WPRFU president Zelt Marais met with prospective investors Marco Masotti and Michael Yormark, president of Roc Nation’s sports department, and a member of the consortium.

    In the weeks leading up to the face-to-face, reports had gathered momentum intimating that the proposed $6-million deal was in danger of falling through because of a breakdown in negotiations.

    However, Marais later insisted that there had been a ‘very productive meeting of the minds’ and suggested that ‘all the misunderstandings we had before’ had been cleared up.

    Yet, SARugbymag.co.za has reliably learned that there has been no further communication between the various parties since the meeting and subsequent proclamations that ‘WPRFU had agreed a negotiations framework with MVM that is based on mutual respect and appreciation’.

    When this website approached Marais on what the next steps and timeline would be for the deal to progress, he stated that it was  ‘still in progress’, but that they were awaiting the draft PRO16 and Test fixtures for 2021 and beyond.

    It remains to be seen when this will be finalised in totality, but it would appear that yet more patience and perseverance would then be required on the part of the American investors to remain committed to getting the deal with WPRFU across the line.

    All the while it appears that WP bosses remain reticent to cede control of its business wing to MVM, which has always remained a non-negotiable deal-breaker or deal-maker for the investors.

    SARugbymag.co.za has now reliably learned from three impeccable individual sources that MVM continues to look at alternative options, and discussions are well under way to consider a shareholding in the Durban-based franchise.

    It’s an alternative option that has been reported quite some time ago, but with the ‘exclusivity agreement’ with WP Rugby having ended several weeks ago, MVM have naturally explored other options – with a foothold in Durban holding its own albeit different appeal.

    The fallout could be significant in WP Rugby circles if the deal is unable to go ahead after months of being in the spotlight, with a number of the Stormers’ senior players widely reported to be unwilling to negotiate contract extensions until there is certainty about the financial security of the business wing.

    Netwerk24 has even reported that should the deal switch from Cape Town to Durban that someone such as Siya Kolisi – a high-profile Roc Nation representative – could be drawn to the Sharks, but that may be a premature possibility at this stage.

    Just recently, though, veteran loose forward Josh Strauss revealed how a potential move to WP had fallen through and admitted he struggled to understand why there was reluctance to accept the deal with a private investor.

    ‘I’m not that clued up with what’s going on off the field at WP. However, I’ve heard things have been boycotted and now it’s a back and forth,’ he told Sport24. ‘I don’t have the financial statements in front of me, but reading between the lines I don’t think things are going brilliantly financially for the union.

    ‘I don’t really see why they wouldn’t take the investment deal. WP is a great union and Cape Town is a beautiful city. It should be one of the greatest places in the world to play rugby, but for it to work you need the financial side to be right.’

    What further beggars belief is the fact while Masotti was in Cape Town, SARugbymag.co.za ratified that he was informed by Marais that he’d have to pay $10,000 to WP Rugby should he wish to conduct a tour of Cape Town Stadium, where the Stormers and Western Province will play their rugby from next year.

    Ultimately, when all the dust settles, it appears that WP Rugby’s loss could well turn out to be the Sharks’ gain.

    Watch this space!

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    Craig Lewis