New Zealand Rugby (NZR) took another step towards selling a minority stake in its commercial arm, including rights to the iconic All Blacks brand, to a U.S. private equity firm on Thursday, but still needs to secure the buy-in of players.
The proposed deal, under which Silver Lake would purchase 12.5% of the commercial rights for NZ$387.5 million ($281.8 million), was unanimously approved by the 26 constituent provincial rugby unions at NZR’s annual general meeting.
The All Blacks are by far New Zealand’s best-known sports team and many in the rugby-mad country have expressed concern at even small part of such a national treasure coming under foreign control.
Outgoing NZR chairman Brent Impey described the deal, which values the rights at $2.23 billion, as a “transformational” opportunity for a game and the potential cash injection as “undreamed of in sports in New Zealand”.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said the body lost around 60% of its revenue during the sporting shutdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, contributing to an operating loss of NZ$18.7 million announced on Thursday.
“We are convinced this can benefit everyone in the game,” said Robinson.