New Zealand Rugby will face a momentous decision on the future of the All Blacks on Thursday, when it must decide whether to sell a stake in the commercial value of the national team to American investors.
New Zealand’s 26 provincial unions will vote on a recommendation from NZR at its annual meeting that it should bundle its commercial interests into a new entity and sell a 12.5 per cent stake of that to California-based Silver Lake Partners for $NZ387.5 million ($A359 million).
If the recommendation is approved, it will be the first time in more than 115 years that the All Blacks – the most successful team in world rugby – do not wholly belong to New Zealanders.
Rugby officials argue the sale is necessary to secure the future financial sustainability of NZ Rugby after its finances were battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In documents to be presented to the annual meeting, NZ Rugby proposes transferring its commercial assets to a company, to be called Commercial LP, and to transfer $NZ43.75 million ($A40.6 million) from the sale price to that entity as operating capital.
A further $NZ39 million ($A36 million) will be distributed to stakeholders, mainly the provincial unions, which are also cash-strapped after the disrupted 2020 season.
NZR said it would also establish a legacy fund for “longer-term strategic initiatives to ensure the sustainability of all levels of rugby in New Zealand”.
Silver Lake Partners was launched in 1999 and has focused mainly on investing in the technology sector. It has holdings in companies such as Airbnb, Twitter and Dell Technologies.
It also holds a stake in City Football Group, which owns among others Premier League giants Manchester City and the A-League’s Melbourne City.
NZ Rugby embarked on a nationwide tour to sell the Silver Lake deal to provincial unions.
But the concept faced push-back from professional players who have sought assurances that important traditional and cultural symbols such as the silver fern and the All Blacks’ haka will not be sold and commercialised.