Saracens owner Nigel Wray today confirmed to RugbyPass that private equity firm CVC Capital Partners has tabled a £275m deal to take up 50 per cent of Premier Rugby Ltd but made it clear the money would not buy control of the English clubs and would not trigger further conflict with the Rugby Football Union.
There is another offer being discussed which is understood to be backed by Bath’s Brue Craig who considers CVC’s valuation of the league of £550m falling short of what could be generated by the 12 top flight clubs and London Irish who also have a share in PRL.
The Times revealed the move but Wray insists they are wrong to suggest CVC would take up a 51 per cent controlling interest in the new business.
The PRL clubs lose £30m annually and need massive cash investment help upgrade facilities with Saracens planning to spend more than £30m on a new stand at Allianz Park. Bath, Harlequins and Newcastle also looking to upgrade their stadia. The CVC offer will be discussed by PRL next Tuesday at their executive committee. CVC bought a 70 per cent stake in Formula One in 2006 for about £1.3 billion and last year sold F1 to Liberty Media for around £6.2 billion.
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Wray revealed to RugbyPass that the PRL clubs have collectively put in around £500m to fund professional rugby in England and the CVC deal would not see those backers walk away with millions. “The money would be invested in the game” insisted Wray who is now sole owner of Saracens.
“The details that have been revealed are correct but CVC would only take 50 per cent not 51. The clubs would still have balance and a much better business. I believe the Premiership clubs have over the last 25 years invested £500m in the game and no one else has done that and no one has cashed in their chips and run away – they have continued to invest in the game. To bring in a very strong financial partner like CVC, well respected, huge experience in sport via Formula One is a very good move. They will cherish the game and we can all argue about how much they will pay but it is vital to get a trusted financial partner to take the game forward.
“It will give us much greater strength and all the clubs including Saracens need money to invest in their grounds and other capital projects plus academies and we will need considerable investment. No one is suggesting that any of the CVC money would be taken by clubs as a dividend – if it arrives it will go back into the sport and is a real positive gamechanger.
“There will be 13 clubs who decide on this and I don’t know if it has to be unanimous and if there are other proposals that are even better then great. I have heard vaguely of another one and there are other ways of raising money. Whatever happens it will be very good for game because we need massive investment. Suggesting it will make the RFU and clubs more adversarial – why would that be the case? Why can’t we work together to improve revenue for the game as a whole?
“Saracens would support consideration of this offer because the game needs a good financial partner and clearly more investment is essential. There isn’t a timeline that I am aware of but everything needs momentum and partnership have to be about people trusting each other the build something. “
Premiership Rugby released the following statement: “Premiership Rugby and its clubs have grown quickly in the last five years with the help of major partnerships,” said a Premiership Rugby spokesperson.
“In that time we have extended our reach in America and become the first club rugby tournament to broadcast live matches in China.
“The Board is always considering options for further expansion and the best ways to support that. Inevitably this will attract interest but a decision is not imminent.
“This interest is of course very good news for Premiership Rugby and is a reflection of its growing international appeal.”