A special general meeting of New Zealand Rugby in Auckland has voted in favour of a $130m private equity investment from US firm Silver Lake, the final step in the approval process for the groundbreaking deal.

The deal, approved in a vote by a majority of the country’s provincial unions, values NZR’s commercial assets at $2.28bn and will see Silver Lake take 5.71%-8.58% of a new entity, NZR CommercialCo.

NZR, whose finances have been buffeted by the Covid-19 pandemic, feel they need the cash injection to keep pace with northern hemisphere rugby powers and to reinvigorate the grass roots of the game.

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“This is a transformational moment for rugby in [New Zealand] at every level of the game and will enable us to move forward, change, and take advantage of the massive opportunities in front of us,” NZR chair Stewart Mitchell said.

The deal has been controversial, however, with some New Zealanders resistant to the idea of any level of foreign ownership of the famous All Blacks brand.

Silver Lake, which has more than $88bn in assets, is one of the largest technology investors in the world. Previous investments in the sports market include stakes in City Football Group, the UFC and Madison Square Garden Sports, which owns the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers.

The deal, which has been two years in the making, gives Silver Lake a smaller stake compared with the NZ$387.5m offered for 12.5% last April.

That deal was rejected by the players’ union (NZRPA), which approved the new offering in February after being promised a seat on the board of the new entity.

The 26 provincial unions will receive an immediate cash windfall of up to NZ$1m each under the deal. An additional investment ranging from NZ$62.5m to NZ$100m will be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors later this year.

Silver Lake, NZR and the NZRPA will also form an entity called Global Rugby Opportunities to invest in global rugby and rugby-related technology businesses outside New Zealand.

Source: The Guardian

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