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All Blacks US investment deal agreed

Feb 17, 2022

New Zealand Rugby and US equity firm Silver Lake have agreed on a deal worth up to $300 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, which remains subject to ratification by the Provincial Unions and Māori Rugby Board, Silver Lake will invest $200m in a new commercial entity that will control all revenue-generating assets of NZR.

The entity will be called CommercialCo and remain under the control of NZR.

An additional co-investment of up $100m will be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors later in 2022.

At the conclusion of the additional co-investment, Silver Lake will own between 5.71 percent and 8.58 percent of NZR CommercialCo, representing $200m-$300m investment, depending on capital needs and the uptake of New Zealand-based institutional investors.

It's a drop in the initial proposal which was to be 10 percent to 15 percent.

NZR said the decrease in Silver Lake share from the initial proposal had been countered with an increase in valuation driven by the improved future financial outlook from broadcasting and sponsorship.

NZR chair Stewart Mitchell conceded negotiations haven'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."

In April, the country's 26 provincial rugby unions approved the sale of a 12.5% stake in NZR's commercial arm, including rights to the All Blacks, to Silver Lake in a deal worth $387.5 million.

But the NZRPA opposed the deal and counter-proposed the sale of a 5% stake through an initial public offering in the country's stock market.

NZR said Silver Lake would own between 5.71-8.58% of the established 'NZR CommercialCo' after an additional co-investment later this year, compared to the 10-15% stake that had been previously proposed.

The co-investment will be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors.

A minimum of $62.5 million will be offered, with the potential to seek up to $100 million if parties agree.

Silver Lake will underwrite this institutional syndication if it is not fully subscribed.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson Photo: Photosport

"This partnership presents rugby with an extraordinary opportunity to secure its future and unleash its true potential," NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said.

"We are truly excited by what we can achieve together with Silver Lakes world class capabilities: from fostering and growing our grassroots, to enhancing the experiences we can create for New Zealanders, and truly maximising our potential on the global stage."

Silver Lake will remain a minority investor and NZR will retain full control over rugby as well as the commercial strategy.

The new NZR CommercialCo entity board will be controlled by NZR and will comprise a new independent chair and other independent directors.

The New Zealand Rugby Players Association will also have a seat on the NZR CommercialCo board.

NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol said the deal represented a "true comprehensive partnership, allowing us to invest together in rugby globally, and establishing the right governance models.

"Silver Lake have shown great integrity and a commitment to getting the right deal in place. They were willing to listen to everyone and understand what rugby means to people in our country," he said.

Silver Lake, NZR and NZRPA will also through "Global Rugby Opportunities" (GRO) invest in global rugby and rugby-related technology businesses, earning NZR and NZRPA a 15 percent share of the profits of GRO (split 50/50) in return for their contribution of sports expertise, know-how and relationships.

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