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Management changes in New Zealand Super Rugby
The Hurricanes and Crusaders Super rugby teams will be managed by investor-appointed boards from next year as the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) takes its first steps toward private ownership of the franchises.
The NZRU has awarded a license to manage the Hurricanes from 2013 to a consortium led by the Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU) and including a number of high-profile business people.
The new entity, Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership is made up with 50% of shares held by WRFU, and 50% private shareholders including Cohiba Traders represented by former Hurricanes Chair, Paul Collins, ForsythMorison represented by former Hurricanes board member, Liz Dawson and Welnix, owners of the Wellington Phoenix, represented by Gareth Morgan.
The new board will be led by Brian Roche, Chief Executive of NZ Post Group and a former partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Roche explained that the announcement "represents a new phase in the development of the Hurricanes (that) will ensure that the Hurricanes continue to be a key part of the image and brand of the region in perspective of both our rugby profile and the economic impact the team brings to the region."
Agreement in principle has also been reached to allow a consortium to take over the Crusaders which, with seven championship titles, is the most successful team in Super Rugby.
The new owners will have the power to select players, market their teams and promote matches, retaining ticketing and sponsorship revenues.
The NZRU will retain ownership of the team 'brands' and pay players and coaches from broadcasting revenues.
Since rugby became professional in 1996, New Zealand's five Super Rugby teams have been owned by the NZRU and managed by boards representing the provincial rugby unions in each team's region.
The NZRU conducted a review earlier this year into the structure and financial sustainability of its Super Rugby franchises which recommended a move toward limited privatisation to attract new investment.
Yesterday's announcement of new operators for the Hurricanes and Crusaders mark the first steps toward a new ownership model.
NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew explains "our aim at the start of this process was to ensure franchises could benefit from being run by independent boards with an improved mix of commercial, marketing and management expertise with an injection of outside capital to strengthen their financial performance.
"We were looking for stronger governance at the board level, fresh thinking and new investors and the Hurricanes consortium certainly delivers in that regard."
Tew said rugby operates in a highly competitive sporting market adding "this move gives the game at the professional level a better chance to be run profitably, to build on its appeal to fans and to enhance its ability to feed a winning All Blacks team.
"These new arrangements are a step forward in terms of putting Super Rugby on a stronger financial footing to ensure the game at the professional level is better placed to prosper and deliver for its fans."
Tew explained that he expects that the final license agreement around the Crusaders to be signed within a month.
A mixture of international and domestic interest has been shown in the license for the Auckland Blues but no bidders were secured for current Super 15 champions the Waikato Chiefs.
Meanwhile, the NZRU will retain ownership of the Otago Highlanders.
Image of Auckland Blues fans courtesy of Regional Facilities Auckland.
16th April 2010 - DWINDLING CROWDS HIT WELLINGTON RUGBY
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