World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin has confirmed that the global governing body has opened talks with private equity firms about investing in the sport.
Speaking to the Financial Times (FT), Gilpin said that World Rugby is in discussions with groups such as CVC Capital Partners and KKR over a deal that could include a stake in the commercial rights for the Rugby World Cup.
The FT added that any potential investment would be used to fund expansion efforts such as new women’s tournaments and television formats for sevens events outside of the Olympic Games.
Talks remain in the early stages, according to the report, which added that World Rugby has hired bankers at Jefferies and Rothschild, as well as consultants at Oakwell Sports Advisory, to advise on the process.
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CVC has increasingly been growing its presence in rugby union with a series of investments in recent years.
In March, it was confirmed that the Luxembourg-headquartered firm had purchased a 14.3 per cent stake in the Six Nations national team tournament for UK£365 million (US$510 million). Prior to that, the company had already acquired a 28 per cent stake in the Pro14 – now known as the United Rugby Championship – and 27 per cent of England’s Premiership Rugby.
Other private equity groups are also attempting to muscle in on the sport, with US-based Silver Lake currently attempting to finalise a NZ$387.5 million (US$271.4 million) deal for a 12.5 per cent share in New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
Gilpin told the FT that he expects the commercial rights World Rugby is offering to be worth ‘significantly more’ than what other rugby competitions have secured from outside investors in recent times.
“In the sport of rugby, the World Cup, for both men and women, is the premium property, so would demand the highest possible valuation,” Gilpin said. “We’ve had good talks with potential investors in that regard.”
The news comes at a time when rugby has been in the spotlight during its second appearance at the Olympic Games, which Gilpin told the FT generates revenues of around US$30 million to US$40 million in revenue for the sport.
However, Gilpin added that the biggest advantage of having rugby feature at the Games is opening up the sport to new audiences.
“If we can use what we do to open up new markets for the sport, then boats rise for everybody,” Gilpin said.
Sent by Lin’s O’Connor