US private equity giant Silver Lake has agreed to invest in the organisation behind New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team, after months of debate.
Under the deal, the firm will back a new entity which owns the legendary team’s commercial rights. Initially, Silver Lake will invest NZ$200m (£98.4m; $133.6m) in exchange for a stake of up to 8.58%.
New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association say they plan to “invest in the game at all levels”.
The agreement came after months of often heated negotiations.
Players blocked previous attempts for private ownership of the All Blacks brand, which has always been publicly owned. The deal has now been made possible by the backing of the powerful rugby players’ association. “I want to acknowledge that the journey to get here hasn’t been easy at times.
There was healthy debate and some adjustments by all parties, but always with the good of the game at the heart of this process,” Stewart Mitchell, chairman of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said in a statement.
“This is a pivotal moment for rugby in New Zealand,” David Kirk, the former All Black captain and chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Players Association said.
The statement also said that under the new agreement, NZR will “retain full control over rugby as well as the commercial strategy”, with Silver Lake remaining a minority investor.
The deal values NZR CommercialCo, the new holding company for the revenue of All Blacks and other New Zealand rugby associations, at NZ$3.5bn.
Later this year, New Zealand-based institutional investors will be given the opportunity to take part in the sale of a stake in NZR CommercialCo of up to NZ$100m.
Silver Lake, which manages around $90bn of assets, already has other sport-related investments in its portfolio.
It has a stake of around 10% in City Football Group Limited, which owns or has significant stakes in several football clubs around the world, including Manchester City. Other investments include stakes in the New York Knicks basketball team and the New York Rangers ice hockey team.
In December, it bought a minority stake in the Australian Professional League, which operates the top-flight men’s and women’s football leagues in the country. It is also a backer of sports retailer Fanatics and Endeavor, the owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.