• Proactive approach required for WP deal

    WP Rugby’s leaders will need to act decisively if a prospective multi-million rand investment is to remain on track, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    There have been plenty of rumblings in the WP boardroom of late. This in itself is not unusual, but it would not have escaped the attention of die-hard rugby followers that this past weekend it was confirmed that a former Western Cape premier, Ebrahim Rasool, had been appointed as chairman of the Western Province Rugby Football Union.

    It followed the news at the end of August that Johan van der Merwe and Andre van der Veen had parted ways as independent directors on the board of WPPR.

    Add to this the departure of Kevin Kiewitz from the executive committee in protest over the handling of a deal with Investec related to the redevelopment of Newlands, while Raymond van Niekerk this week resigned as an independent director – firing a few parting shots on his way out.

    ‘If you’re at such a sensitive stage of negotiations for a controlling stake in your company and you get rid of the most valuable person in your midst – in this case Andre – as well as the chairman, then you’ve abandoned all logic,’ Van Niekerk told Netwerk24.

    WP president Zelt Marais has since hit back at these comments, but no matter on which side of the fence you sit, it all paints a picture of an unsettled environment at a time when critical negotiations are ongoing.

    In July, news emerged that New York-based lawyer Marco Masotti – along with other potential co-investors – had expressed a keen interest in buying a controlling stake in WP Rugby’s business wing.

    He is primarily leading an expression of interest to invest about $6 million (almost R100m) in WP Rugby – $4m in the business wing (which contracts the Stormers players for example) and $2m in the union’s amateur arm.

    READ: Why ‘control’ is key for WPRFU investment

    The possibility of a deal with Masotti would be expected to provide a much-needed financial boost, particularly when it comes to securing the future of top players at the Stormers, many of whom are said to be advocating for the deal to go ahead in order to provide some future job security.

    As it is, Van der Veen played a key role in connecting Masotti’s consortium – MVM Holdings – with WP Rugby.

    SARugbymag.co.za understands that Van der Veen’s departure will not derail the expression of interest for the investment terms to be successfully negotiated, but the deal does remain some way off.

    In a previous interview with SARugbymag.co.za, Masotti made no secret of the fact that a ‘deal-breaker’ element of his investment consideration revolved around the desire for a controlling stake.

    ‘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.’

    This may be the sticking point from the perspective of the WP leadership, but a passive approach in pursuing the investment opportunity could ultimately pour cold water on the lucrative prospect.

    This website has approached Marais for feedback on the status of the negotiations, and is awaiting answers.

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    Craig Lewis