Bolton Equities Limited (BEL), the major shareholder of the struggling Blues Super rugby franchise, has been forced to hand over its 40 percent stake to New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
The decision comes after a NZR's independent review of the club’s governance structure in parallel with an in-depth, on-field post-campaign review that concluded the current shareholding mix was "unsustainable".
"We would like to thank BEL CEO Murray Bolton and his team for their contribution to the Blues over this period," NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said.
"A large amount of progress has been made over this time, highlighted by the establishment of the Blues' home base in Epsom, which is as good as any in professional rugby.
"The review is one of many steps that the Blues have recently taken to help rebuild the success of the club. This has included the appointment of Leon MacDonald as assistant coach and Tom Coventry as forwards coach to join head coach Tana Umaga in 2019, the extension of principal partner nib for three years, and the re-signing of key players and new recruits, such as Karl Tu’inukuafe."
NZR will now take a 40 percent stake in Blues on an interim basis, as it tries to find a new group of investors.
NZ Rugby has agreed with the remaining Blues owners (Auckland Rugby Union, North Harbour Rugby Union and Northland Rugby Union) to hold its partnership interest, until a process has been completed to identify alternative private investors and the appointment of a new Board chair.
"Whilst we have been required to sell our shares, we will continue to be a strong advocate and supporter for the Blues," said BEL chief executive Murray Bolton.
The franchise is currently owned by the Auckland Rugby Union (38.75 percent), North Harbour Rugby Union (17.75 percent), and Northland Rugby Union 3.5 percent, along with the 40 percent BEL share.