Billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe has completed a significant deal with the Blue Bulls Company (BBCo) and club shareholders Remgro to purchase a controlling share in the Pretoria-based franchise.
The highly-anticipated deal was unanimously concluded during a meeting held at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday evening.
As a result, the new structure means that Remgro – an investment holding company based in Stellenbosch – and the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU) will have their previously equal percentage of shareholding of 50 percent slashed to 37 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
That will allow 57-year-old Motsepe, a mining magnate reportedly worth US$2.3 billion according to Forbes, to take an equal majority share of 37 percent.
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The Bulls aren’t the only South African rugby franchise to have been bought out by a private investor this year.
The Southern Kings sold a 74 percent share to The Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (Pty) Ltd (GRC) in March, allowing them to take majority ownership of the Port Elizabeth-based PRO14 club.
The move could alleviate fears of homegrown South African players being poached by cashed up offshore clubs in the wake of revelations that up to 20 of the nation’s top schoolboy prospects have been recruited to ply their trade overseas.
A change to the South African Rugby Union’s contracting model last year was designed to keep a wide base of young talent domestically-based rather than trying to maintain the contracts of the country’s top stars, most of whom were being courted by wealthy European and Japanese clubs.
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That resulted in the abolishment of the Springboks’ 35-test threshold for offshore-based players, but a change to World Rugby’s residency laws from three to five years has forced the aggressive recruitment of South Africa’s most promising youngsters by French clubs at an earlier age than ever before.
The recruitment tactic stems from a crack down by the French Rugby Federation on the number of players who aren’t eligible to play for France who are signed to Top 14 sides, but the financial boost provided by Motsepe’s acquisition of the Bulls could help offset a potentially devastating trend for South African rugby.
President of the BBRU, Willem Strauss, expressed his delight with the new deal.
“We put a lot of effort into making this possible over the last few months, and I am proud to say that all the union committee members unanimously voted in favor of the deal,” he said.
“I firmly believe that private investors will add immense value to our beautiful game going forward.
“The benefits of this deal is not only to the BBCo at the professional level, it will also make a positive impact on our amateur rugby, at schools, clubs and development levels. We are privileged and excited to have partners like Mr Motsepe in our corner.”
Alfons Meyer, chief executive of the BBCo, echoed Strauss’ sentiments.
“This is a brilliant deal, not only for us at the BBCo, but also for our communities and the sport industry in general,” he said.
“I look forward to a host of synergies and opportunities that will be forged between us.
“With Mr Motsepe also owning soccer giants Mamelodi Sundowns, there is no doubt that a relationship like this will further enhance and entrench our vision to make Tshwane the sporting capital.”
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