CVC CAPITAL PARTNERS, a private equity firm, has struck a deal worth more than £300 million for a share in the Six Nations, The Times newspaper has reported.
The global giant, which has already bought a stake in the English Gallagher Premiership and has nearly completed a similar deal with the Guinness Pro14, has agreed in principle to buy a 15 per cent share in the six unions’ commercial arm. The deal will mean that the private equity firm will own a share not only of the Six Nations Championship, but also the autumn internationals and summer tours.
All sides expect the deal to be completed after the World Cup, according to The Times. The Pro14 deal should be finalised next month with CVC set to pay £115 million for a 27 per cent share of the club competition, which is contested by teams from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and South Africa. That will leave CVC with an unprecedented level of influence in the European game, with the French Top 14 the only significant competition not tied into the company.
“Given that the equity firm is now in a commercial partnership with two of the three leagues that constitute the Heineken Champions Cup, the European competition, is, to a large extent, already part of CVC’s European business,” reasoned The Times.
“Now that all the home unions and their clubs are commercial partners with CVC, it is likely that the British & Irish Lions will also be a target for CVC’s rugby portfolio. It believes it can increase the value of its rugby holdings by amalgamating all elements of its rugby business. Its biggest gain will be to wrap all the TV rights from its various different competitions and sell them as one mega-package.”
The Six Nations Championship is currently on free-to-air TV. It is understood that a commitment will be made to retain an element of free-to-air broadcasting, though it is likely that some of the Six Nations will move to paid-for TV channels.
The present broadcast deal, which began in 2016 and expires in 2021, involves the BBC having the rights to show live all home games for Wales, France and Scotland, while ITV shows England, Ireland and Italy home matches.
CVC Partners previously ran Formula One, making a major return on their investment, but eliciting some pretty scathing criticism for their management of the sport, and particularly for the drift toward pay-TV.
“Six Nations believes that investment in rugby football is vital for the long-term future of our game and this belief is central in our decision to enter into this period of negotiation,” said a Six Nations statement. “Six Nations, together with its constituent unions and federations, has agreed to enter into an exclusive period of negotiation with an external investor partner. As these negotiations are confidential and commercially sensitive, Six Nations will not be making any further comment.”
Former Scotland winger and oil explorer Sir Bill Gammell has been conducting a review into the Scottish Rugby Union’s governance and management structures since early June. He is yet to make his report, but it is understood that the main thrust of his enquiry is ensuring that the business is in the best possible shape to receive the significant windfall which CVC is expected to provide.
SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson, Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay and Chairman of the Board Colin Grassie have been in Nagasaki, Japan, this week, accompanying the Scotland rugby team as they complete their preparation for the World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday with a mouth-watering clash against Ireland in Yokohama.