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'That scares me': All Blacks great Richie McCaw breaks silence on Silver Lake saga

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has broken his silence on the public feud between New Zealand Rugby [NZR] and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association [NZRPA] over the ongoing Silver Lake saga.


The spat between the two organisations took another turn on Friday when NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol leaked to media that Kiwi-owned investment manager company Forsyth Barr had tabled an alternative offer to rival that of Silver Lake.

The proposal, which would see NZR sell a five per cent stake in its future commercial revenues through an NZX listing, could raise as much as $650m.

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By comparison, Silver Lake, the American private equity firm, would buy a 12.5 percent stake in NZR for $387.5 million, a concept NZRPA has staunchly opposed largely due to the foreign ownership of the national union.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson slammed the NZRPA in stunning fashion shortly after the proposal was leaked to media for its “attempt to destroy” the Silver Lake deal, saying that the relationship between the organisations was “at a new low”.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, McCaw, who served on the NZRPA for a decade, called for calm between NZR and the NZRPA, saying that both sides of the equation need to be taken into consideration.

“We’ve got to have a look at it and debate it,” he said of the Forsyth Barr proposal.


“Don’t be afraid of it. It’s not saying one’s definitely better than the other, but the thing I really want to see is to look at these options, and don’t just dismiss it because it wasn’t yours.

“The big thing I hope is that this new proposal on the table actually gets discussed, and not just dismissed. For me, it’s another option that I didn’t think was possible, but it looks like it could be.”

The 148-test international, who captained the All Blacks to successive World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, added that the Silver Lake deal “scares” him because of the motivation behind it.

“I was trying to be as open-minded as possible, because we’re a small country, and there’s always the challenge about there being enough money in the game to compete.


“But there’s also the feeling of, ‘What happens down the track? Is it the right thing? What are the risks?’. You’d like to stack it up against the other options.

“Being told [by NZR] that’s the only option and we take it or leave it, does make you wonder. I can see how a whole lot of money coming in would make people feel pretty excited about it.

“But when you talk with people about private equity, the feedback I get is to be very careful, that you have to understand the motivation, which is to make money off it. Straight away that scares me.

“I’m not an expert in the field, but there were business people who would say to me, ‘be careful’.”

Regardless of what happens, McCaw said he hopes the damage caused as a result of the spat between NZR and the NZRPA can be mended as a rift between the two organisations is detrimental to the game in New Zealand.

“One of our strengths of rugby in New Zealand is that we’ve had a really united way of doing things, which has actually been unique in the world,” he told the Herald.

“We want to make sure we get back to that state. I really hope we work together to get there. I know the players want to get back to that. It does nobody any good to not have that partnership, which was special, working.”


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