New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has been given the green light by its provincial unions to finalise a private equity deal that will give US investment firm Silver Lake a 12.5% stake in the game.
In the landmark deal, Silver Lake would inject $387.5 million into NZR with a large portion of the money earmarked for rugby’s grassroots, but it still needs the consent of the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA) to go ahead.
The 26 provincial unions and New Zealand Māori Rugby Board (NZMRB) voted unanimously in favour of the Silver Lake proposal at the governing body’s 129th annual general meeting in Wellington on Wednesday, where NZR posted an operating loss of $18.7m, just $5m below the pre-Covid-19 budgeted loss.
A further $16m writedown of Sky Television shares created a total loss for the year of $34.6m.
NZR chair Brent Impey said the positive vote for private equity was one of the most significant in the game’s history.
‘We are thrilled that our Provincial Unions and the Māori Rugby Board have recognised the importance of private equity in driving commercial revenue and enabling investment to ensure rugby thrives and survives into the future. Today’s vote for Silver Lake represents a transformational opportunity for our game and one we must grasp.’
However, Impey said it was disappointing that the NZRPA had not given its consent.
‘Through swift action, good governance and hard work of our people we are fortunate to be one of the best-placed national unions in the world. However, we are at a critical juncture and need our players’ support if we are to make the most of the opportunity in front of us.
‘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.
‘The players are a critical part of this journey, but we have to look at what is right across all levels of the game, our whole eco-system. 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.’