NZ Rugby slams Players Association, investment company for attempting to sabotage Silver Lake deal

New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson has slammed Players Association counterpart Rob Nichol for releasing a Silver Lake counter-proposal to the media.

On Friday, a joint release was issued by the NZ Rugby Players Association and New Zealand investment company Forsyth Barr, illustrating an alternative option to the controversial Silver Lake capital raising deal.

The counter-offer suggests the sale of a five percent stake in NZR's revenue-generating assets, through an NZX-listed entity to the New Zealand public and institutions (NZ Inc IPO).

NZRPA and Forsyth Barr believe the valuation of NZR's commercial rights is between NZ$3.4-3.8 billion - 12-23 percent higher than the Silver Lake valuation of NZ$3.1 billion.

Selling five percent of NZR's commercial rights at the Forsyth Barr valuation would deliver between NZ$171-191 million.

This is significantly lower than the cash boost of NZ$387 million that NZR is expected to receive under the Silver Lake deal.

But the Players Association and Forsyth Barr believe the alternative deal would still allow NZR to distribute the same amount of money - NZ$39 million - to provincial unions and the Māori board, as proposed by Silver Lake.

But an angered Robinson has hit out at Nichol for playing a game of "my model is better than yours" through the media.

NZ Rugby slams Players Association, investment company for attempting to sabotage Silver Lake deal
Mark Robinson
Mark Robinson Photo credit: Photosport

"We [NZR] are shocked and disappointed that Rob Nichols has shared another counter-proposal with media before sharing it with New Zealand Rugby, as we have not had sufficient time to digest or understand what has been proposed or comment on the detail," says Robinson.

"Further, it includes confidential information about our organisation that we have not considered to being made public, or shared with Forsyth Barr or any other professional entity."

Robinson adds that Nichols' actions are a "breach of trust" and negotiaions should continue constructively behind closed doors. 

"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 Māori Rugby Board, as well as the independent validation of the deal by PWC and global investment bank Jefferies."

Robinson concludes that the players have been let down by their own union.

"The greatest opportunity for the future of all of rugby in New Zealand could be lost."

In summary the Players Association and Forsyth Barr believe the alternative approach would:

  • Provide an opportunity for all New Zealanders to own a slice of New Zealand rugby, as opposed to selling to offshore private equity interests and subsequently to an unidentified new owner, when Silver Lake exits.
  • Raise capital at a higher valuation than the Silver Lake proposal.
  • Raise an amount of capital consistent with the current needs of NZR (More capital can be raised later if needed).
  • Ensure a greater level of NZR profitability under a range of operating scenarios.
  • Result in the same distributions to provincial unions and the NZ Māori Rugby Board.
  • Restore NZR reserves to a level significantlymore than pre-COVID levels and well above NZR's own reserves policy
  • Achieve a sound balance between growing the value of the commercial enterprise and investing in the New Zealand game at all levels.
  • Allow NZR to undertake a thorough business planning process and secure the capability required to execute that plan, without being constrained to Silver Lake networks and approval of key appointments.
  • Provide a sustainable platform that enables rugby in New Zealand to prosper in the long term.
  • Ensure New Zealand rugby remains firmly in the control of New Zealanders.