The deal with California-based investment fund Silver Lake Partners won unanimous approval from the county federations at the federation’s annual meeting in Wellington, but it has yet to receive, in principle on Thursday, the green light from the players’ union to be approved.
The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZR) on Thursday approved a “revolutionary” plan to sell shares of its All Blacks brand to US investors, a controversial option players have yet to accept. “We believe this is a truly exciting and transformative opportunity that can benefit all of the sport for generations to come,” said Mark Robinson, CEO of NZR.
The deal with California-based investment fund Silver Lake Partners won unanimous approval from the county federations at the federation’s annual general meeting in Wellington, but it has yet to receive, in principle on Thursday, the go-ahead from the players’ union due to be approved. However, for some of them, it is the spirit of “all blacks” that is sold and the veto is not excluded.
230 million euros to buy part of the “All Plax” brand
The New Zealand Football Association has responded positively to a proposal by the California-based Silver Lake Fund: $280 million (€230 million) to acquire a portion of the All Blacks brand, the men’s brand in black of the three world champions, who have won eight out of ten matches. .
The episode reminds us of the catastrophic failure of the European Football League when several prestigious clubs tried to secede from the European Football Association and the Champions League, in order to increase profits, according to critics, before overcoming the decline in the face of the anger of the fans. “The clubs have sold their souls,” one of Robinson’s predecessors, David Moffett, expressed on Radio New Zealand. Selon lui, Silver Lake, qui gère un portefeuille d’actifs de 79 milliards de dollars (65 milliards d’euros), va tenter de presser les All Blacks comme des citrons, quitte à leur faire jouer des exhibition matches «dénués de sens» in the United States of America.
However, the All Blacks are a historical monument and a daily obsession in New Zealand, they are an integral part of the lives of the residents, of their national pride, a stone’s throw from Australian and South African rivals. Moffett predicts: “We will see the All Blacks play more games without interest, which will devalue the most beautiful mark in the rugby world.” Fans of the All Blacks in numbers already reacted, on the Federation’s Facebook page, when the American insurance company AIG announced in 2012 that it would appear on the famous black shirts, which for a long time remained devoid of any sponsor.
The fans remained silent for the time being, allowing the Players Guild to take the front lines
Silver Lake wants to buy 12.5% of the commercial rights and the right to negotiate deals around the world to sell TV rights and derivatives. This will bring the total commercial value of New Zealand rugby to $2.2 billion (€1.8 billion). The business stake is significant at a time when NZR is experiencing significant financial difficulties, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, to the point that, according to Mr. Robinson, it threatens its very survival. It lost more than $25 million in 2020, according to financial results released at its general meeting on Thursday.
For NZR President Brent Impey, this agreement “represents a revolutionary turning point for rugby”. This is a “unique opportunity to attract business income to enable investment in areas where it is most needed,” Mbe said. He emphasized that the money will be used in particular to help the federations of provinces in difficulty, and to develop the female game and youth participation. He added that investments in technology will also allow NZR to “reach millions of fans around the world.”
The fans remained silent for the time being, leaving the Players Association to take the front line. Especially since the potential investor is not the first to arrive: at the end of 2019, Silver Lake acquired a 10% stake in City Football Group, owner of Manchester City football club. According to documents disclosed before the vote, a portion of Silver Lake’s initial investment, if accepted on Thursday, will go to a foundation aimed at protecting New Zealand’s rugby interests. But according to Stuff.co.nz sports columnist Mark Reason, Silver Lake only wants to make money “by increasing the value of New Zealand rugby on paper before reselling it for a profit, as it usually does”.