The Kiwi who saved relationship with Rugby Australia, as private equity deals heat up – Fox Sports

Posted: September 20, 2021 at 8:50 am

As New Zealand Rugby continues to crawl towards a private equity solution, Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan says their own path towards overturning years of underinvestment is on course.

The former News Corp exec also believes bread can be broken with their New Zealand counterparts, with new NZR chair Stuart Mitchell helping ease tensions.

McLennan described Mitchell, who took over from Brent Impey at the end of May, as a good bloke but straight down the line and pivotal in getting the new Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition across the line.

However, McLennan added if relations didnt continue to improve they would reassess the new domestic deal in 2023.

Over the weekend, the New Zealand Herald revealed the NZR were edging towards a resolution in getting their deal with Silver Lake across the line.

The NZ Herald reported the US technology investment giant, which had valued NZR at $3.1 billion previously and offered $387.5 million for a 12.5 per cent stake in the deal, had given an improved valuation for a 7.5 per cent stake.

Improved but still less than the cash-injection promised earlier, which potentially leaves the NZR needing to sell off more of its product later.

The previous deal hit a snag because the NZR had failed in its duty to give the New Zealand Rugby Players Association a seat at the negotiating table.

It left NZR boss Mark Robinson, who has struggled to fill the void left by his predecessor Steve Tew, scrambling for a solution as the Players Association boss Rob Nichol rejected the deal.

Now a series of demands have been included by the Players Association for any potential deal to proceed, including an independent NZ Rugby governance review that assesses the constitution.


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The list of conditions also includes the key principle to provide the opportunity for New Zealanders to invest in NZ Rugby.

Despite the developments, it is not fait accompli the deal will go ahead with one Players Association source telling the NZ Herald it remained a 50/50 chance.

The debacle has left Robinson vulnerable in his role as NZR CEO, with many losing confidence in his ability.

New Zealand sources have told the fractured relationship between the NZR and Super Rugby franchises continues.

The years messy private equity deals, which failed to include New Zealands players, Impeys attack on the players, as well as the fractious relationship with closest ally Rugby Australia, has seen Robinsons stocks take a hit and Nichols grow.

If it wasnt for Stuart Mitchell we would have cut them adrift and done Super AU only, McLennan told

Hes a good guy, someone you can trust and he wants to do the right thing.

We might still wind our relationship back with them over time if the relationship doesnt settle at all levels. Well give it two years and re-evaluate.

RA remains on track to take their own private equity pitch to market in the coming months and said the governing body wont face the same roadblocks, with RUPA boss Justin Harrison with them at every step.

The governing body is still hoping to strike a deal, which will sell off 12.5 per cent of its entities for a game-changing sum of money to help spearhead rugbys future.

McLennan said there was an acceptance across the board the code needs an injection of capital.

Well just run our own race, he said. But we are under capitalised. We still need more.

Theyve got roughly $60 million in the bank and they get more broadcast and sponsorship with a population of under five million. Weve underinvested for 15 years.

Meanwhile, RA will not throw open the borders and ditch the Giteau Law and other eligibility criteria that limits overseas players from representing the Wallabies.

The loosening of eligibility laws has benefited the Wallabies over the past month, with Samu Kerevi, who would not have qualified under the current Giteau Law like Quade Cooper, playing a key role in leading Dave Rennies men to consecutive wins over the world champion Springboks.

RA believes they are striking the right balance in targeting key players like Kerevi, as well as Sean McMahon who has arrived from Japan for the remainder of the Rugby Championship, to help inject star power and experience.

Others like Rory Arnold are expected to be called up for international duty in November for the Spring Tour.

With the help of contracting manager Nick Taylor, RA believes they have pinpointed the right youngsters to keep in Australia like Len Ikitau and Tate McDermott while also bringing back others such as Nic White and Andrew Kellaway.

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The Kiwi who saved relationship with Rugby Australia, as private equity deals heat up - Fox Sports

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