CVC Capital Partners have added the Guinness PRO14 to their rugby portfolio, agreeing on a deal worth £120million to buy a 28 per cent stake in the five-nation tournament following on from their £200m December 2018 buy into the Gallagher Premiership.
The total value to the Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh unions is in the order of £30m each (net of costs), with an initial sum expected on Friday of approximate £5m to be paid to each of the four countries. South Africa, who have Southern Kings and Cheetahs playing in the league, won’t benefit from this deal.
Confirming that the unions will retain a 72 per cent majority shareholding in the tournament, a PRO14 statement said: “The partnership commitment will allow both PRO14 and the Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions to continue to invest in the sport, both professional and amateur, to achieve its potential over the long term.
“A portion of the investment will also be held centrally at PRO14 Rugby for the board to invest in further capabilities for the business and in upgrading league operations in line with its growth ambitions. As part of this agreement, the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR) will also become a member of Celtic Rugby DAC and receive a share of the investment.
“CVC was selected by PRO14 Rugby and the unions as their partner due to the extensive experience of prior CVC funds investing in multiple sports businesses, such as Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby.”
Current CEO Martin Anayi will continue to lead the PRO14’s management team following a four-year period where the league claims to have performed well both on and off the field – doubling distributions to clubs and facilitating record investment back into the sport from the league.
Speaking after the deal was clinched, Anayi said: “CVC’s show of faith has been impressive and is in keeping with their proven track record of success when it comes to sports investment, including Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby.
“This partnership allows all of our stakeholders to plan for a sustainable period of growth, which will benefit the fans, the players and the game. We are very pleased to partner with CVC, who saw us as an ambitious, fast-paced and innovative organisation situated across a number of core rugby nations that can deliver an increasing impact.
“We have been clear that we believe the Guinness PRO14 is a world-class club league, that is still in its growth phase and we are confident that it will become a major standard-bearer in our sport. We are excited that CVC clearly shares that ambition and we look forward to working with them to deliver on the league’s promise in the years ahead.”
Dominic McKay, chairman of Celtic Rugby and chief operating officer of Scottish Rugby, added: “As a board, we have been ambitious in our outlook and have significantly developed the league in recent years. One of our key goals was to secure a strategic partner to help accelerate our plans and CVC bring a wealth of experience and great expertise in this regard.
“Sport, like all of society, is dealing with major challenges currently that we could not have imagined just a few months ago, and it is testament to the strength of our partnership with CVC that they have committed to the game of rugby in a such a significant way.
“Their enthusiasm and commitment is a welcome vote of confidence in the future of the sport and the Guinness PRO14 as an international competition. Completing this partnership with CVC is testament to the hard work invested by many people who have focused to deliver a bright vision for PRO14 and enable it to realise its commercial value in the global sports market.
“We are also delighted that the FIR has now joined Celtic Rugby DAC as a shareholder after 10 years of participation in the league. Alongside my PRO14 board colleagues at the Irish, Italian, Welsh and South African rugby unions I would like to warmly welcome CVC to the Guinness PRO14.”
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