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'Shocked and disappointed': NZR boss slams players' boss for 'attempt to destroy' Silver Lake deal

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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New Zealand Rugby [NZR] chief executive Mark Robinson has slammed his New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association [NZRPA] counterpart Rob Nichol for his organisation’s “attempt to destroy the Silver Lake deal”.


It was revealed on Friday that an alternative offer to US-based private equity firm Silver Lake has been tabled by Auckland-based investment manager company Forsyth Barr.

Forsyth Barr’s proposal to sell a five percent stake in NZR’s revenue-generating assets via an NZX-listed entity to the Kiwi public and institutions was shared to media by the NZRPA, who have been vocal in their opposition against the Silver Lake deal.

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Forsyth Barr’s chairman and former All Blacks captain David Kirk is also president of the NZRPA.

Valuing NZR between $3.4 billion and $3.8 billion, up to $700 million more than Silver Lake, the NZRPA believes the Forsyth Barr deal provides better value for the national governing body.

However, Robinson has slammed the players’ association in stunning fashion for leaking the proposal, of which he says NZR were unaware of, to the press before informing the organisation beforehand.

“We are shocked and disappointed that Rob Nichol has shared another counter proposal with media before sharing it with New Zealand Rugby,” Robinson said in a statement.


“As such we have not had sufficient time to digest or understand what has been proposed or comment on the detail.

“Further, it includes confidential information about our organisation that we have not consented to being made public or shared with Forsyth Barr or any other professional entity. This is a fundamental breach of trust and the partnership which up until now we valued highly.”

He added that NZR is not willing to enter debate over alternative options to the Silver Lake deal.

“NZR has no desire to continue to play out an ill-informed ‘my model is better than yours’ debate – nor do we think the public like it – and we would have rather continued to constructively negotiate with Rob Nichol and his Board which we have made clear.


“Through doing this, the NZRPA leadership has unilaterally taken a decision to attempt to destroy the Silver Lake deal – and the incredible financial and capability outcomes it would provide for all of rugby, as acknowledged by the unanimous vote of our Provincial Unions and Maori Rugby Board as well as the independent validation of the deal by PWC and global investment bank Jefferies.

“We are sorry, that for the players, their own Union has put them in this position where the greatest opportunity for the future of all of Rugby in New Zealand could be lost.”

Robinson reportedly said in an email to NZR staff, obtained by the New Zealand Herald, that NZR’s relationship with NZRPA was subsequently “at a new low”.

“We have been advised this morning, at very late notice, that the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association has released to the media an alternative capital raising option for rugby in New Zealand – based on initial public offering (IPO) model to sell 5% of an NZR CommercialCo.

“We believe their proposal, which has been worked up together with Forsyth Barr, will go public at midday or soon after,” the email said.

“We are incredibly disappointed with this turn of events, and have just now sent the below statement to media as an initial response. To have the NZRPA prepare this work, without any notification or involvement of NZR, and without any legal consent to utilise our information in doing so, and then present it to media before ourselves, sadly represents a new low in our relationship with the NZRPA and the critical discussions over the financial future of the game.

“We are in contact with our Provincial Unions and other stakeholders and will update staff further once we know more. There will be significant media interest in this story and we are working hard to ensure that NZR’s voice is heard effectively on this over the coming hours and days.”

The public spat is the latest in the ongoing conflict between the two organisations regarding the decision to sell a stake a stake in NZR.

Provincial unions and the Maori Rugby Board voted unanimously in favour of the Silver Lake last month, the same time of which outgoing NZR chairman Brent Impey said he was “very disappointed” at opposition to the deal.

It’s understood the deal to sell a 12.5 percent stake to Silver Lake would give NZR a much-needed $387.5 million financial boost.


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