Hurricanes sale keeps the franchise in the capital

Last updated 13:48 12/11/2012

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The Hurricanes have become the first Super Rugby franchise to go into private ownership.

The successful bid, led by Wellington Rugby (WRFU) and supported by private investors, ensures the Hurricanes will stay in the capital for another eight years.

The new entity, Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership, is made up with 50 per cent of shares held by WRFU, and 50 per cent private shareholders.

The private shareholders include Cohiba Traders, represented by former Hurricanes chairmand Paul Collins;  ForsythMorison, represented by former Hurricanes board member Liz Dawson; and Wellington Phoenix owners Welnix, represented by Gareth Morgan.

The new board will be led by current chief executive of NZ Post Group and former partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers and chairman of Rugby NZ 2011 Ltd, Brian Roche.

"The announcement today represents a new phase in the development of the Hurricanes,'' Roche said.

''It's a privilege for us all to be associated with the opportunities the licence arrangement provides. This will ensure that the Hurricanes continue to be a key part of the image and brand of the region - in perspective of both our rugby profile and the economic impact the team brings to the region."

Last year the NZRU put out to tender licences for four of the five Super Rugby licences. However, the Hurricanes franchise is the first one to be secured.

"Welnix's involvement reinforces the importance for Wellington sports to work together and shows our commitment to seeing the Hurricanes do well as a franchise," Morgan said.

A Super Rugby licencee's responsibilities include management of the team both on-field and off-field including the professional development for members of the squad, promotion of matches and the brand associated with each team.

The licencee's revenue generating opportunities could include team naming rights from 2016 onwards and non-rugby activities. Additionally, all costs currently met centrally by NZRU/SANZAR would be retained by them.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said he was pleased with the calibre of the new team behind the Hurricanes.

"Our aim at the start of this process was to ensure franchises could benefit from being run by independent boards with an improved mix of commercial, marketing and management expertise with an injection of outside capital to strengthen their financial performance,'' Tew said.

''We were looking for stronger governance at the board level, fresh thinking and new investors and the Hurricanes consortium certainly delivers in that regard.

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"Rugby operates in a highly competitive market for the attention of sports fans and while we have had a stellar Super Rugby season this year, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.

"This move gives the game at the professional level a better chance to be run profitably, to build on its appeal to fans and to enhance its ability to feed a winning All Blacks team. And that has to be good for rugby at all levels."

- Fairfax Media

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