WP president unhappy with media leaks

Western Province president Zelt Marais has lashed out at senior members of the union who have ‘leaked’ information from their discussions to consider an investment from an American lawyer.

In a statement released late on Sunday, Marais confirmed that WP Rugby is in negotiations with USA-based consortium MVM Holdings, headed by Marco Masotti, a Durban-raised lawyer who is recognised as one of the USA’s leading practitioners in private equity.

Masotti told SARugbymag.co.za that he is 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. Masotti said discussions were still at an early stage, but earlier in July he had requested a 45-day exclusivity agreement to enter into talks with WPRFU. A key element of his offer revolves around a desire to acquire a controlling majority share.

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However, in a statement, Marais expressed his displeasure over officials in the WP Rugby structures who have leaked information about the potential deal to the media.

‘I am indeed saddened to address you at this time when we as the executive leadership of the Union and shareholder directors on the board of Western Province Professional Rugby should be collectively and as one remain focused on fighting to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on the business of rugby in Cape Town, the Western Cape, South Africa and indeed the world,’ Marais wrote.

‘The effect of this pandemic on rugby in the Western Cape and specifically in Cape Town has been profound. Daily my office is being informed of the passing of people in rugby in Cape Town that leave communities, families and community sport organisations reeling with shock and disbelief.

‘Through my personal experiences of the illness and loss of people through this virus, I can today testify that the effects of Covid-19 is akin to us being in a state of war, the effects of this pandemic will live with us through a “new normal” for decades and centuries to come.

‘It is against this backdrop that I want to express my extreme disappointment and report to you that officials you elected and/or appointed to the leadership structures of WP Rugby chose to serve the organisation through the media.

‘The rules of engagement between colleagues at these forums had always been robust, respectful and honest. On numerous occasions senior members were requested to denounce these unsavoury behavioural traits and pledge their loyalty to the Union [either as an elected executive member or a director appointed to represent the shareholder that elected him to such a trusting position or as an appointed independent director serving WP Rugby].

‘The majority of our members serving the Union at these levels find the behaviour of members that make themselves guilty of such treasonous acts as disgraceful and unbecoming of a leader, and I again call on any person serving WP Rugby in this manner to rather vacate your position with honour or to immediately stop this need you have to misuse your position of trust to feed the media information that is mostly quoted out of context or leaked with the sole purpose of influencing outcomes in the boardroom.

‘I cautioned the WP Rugby community in my letter to them on 24 June 2020 about this behaviour of “colleagues” acting in cahoots with members of the media and must sadly report that these cowardly acts by our “own” continue unabatedly to the detriment of the rugby people in the Cape during a time when we are all focusing on comforting a person that lost a loved one, a family member, a friend, a colleague, a neighbour or a member in our rugby clubs that we played or worked with as volunteers. Words cannot fully describe my sadness and disappointment today in calling out these members.

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‘Considering the current wave of misinformation being spread to the world by our media houses, allow us as your executive leadership to confirm to you our approach in dealing with the following matters:

‘WP Rugby signed an exclusivity agreement with MVM Holdings (USA), LLC allowing us to negotiate with them on a strictly confidential manner about an equity offer made to the Union in respect of the WP Professional Rugby Company.

‘The transaction and the details thereof remains strictly confidential at this stage and we wish to assure you that any transaction agreed to will be subject to it being financially structured to best serve the long-term interest of the Union being the 100% shareholder, and will only be concluded with the formal blessing of our constituent shareholders at the appropriate forum and time.

‘The Shareholder has over the past four years lent and invested in excess of R100 million to its Professional Arm on the condition that the latter entity as a minimum show a breakeven budget in 2020 and start repaying its debts to the said Shareholder from 2021 onwards. The business of the Professional Arm has over the past 12 months primarily, but for one been managed and controlled by its independent directors.’

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