(Reuters) – New Zealand Rugby (NZR) still hopes to complete its proposed deal with U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake but will also aim to ramp up revenues from other investment opportunities, chief executive Mark Robinson said on Thursday.

In April, 26 constituent provincial rugby unions approved the sale of a 12.5% stake in NZR’s commercial arm, including rights to the All Blacks, to Silver Lake in a deal worth NZ$387.5 million ($261.91 million).

But the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA), whose approval is required, opposed the deal and counter-proposed the sale of a 5% stake through an initial public offering in the country’s stock market.

Robinson said NZR would meet the players’ body next week.

“To be clear on that, it means we still carry on working with the RPA, our stakeholders and Silver Lake around the Silver Lake deal,” Robinson said.

“But parallel to that we’ll get moving now, and provide some real action in terms of supercharging the revenue opportunities we believe sit for NZ Rugby, globally and domestically.”

Robinson said Silver Lake were “incredibly supportive” of their approach.

“They will provide some guidance and insights as we work through standing up this work within our own organisation,” Robinson said.

“And that’s a strong sign, on top of the patience they’ve shown over the last many months, that we think eventually we’ll hopefully get to a deal but in the interim we’re not going to lose any more ground in having to take this area forward.”

Robinson said NZR could post a “break-even” financial result for 2021 in contrast to 2020 where they lost around 60% of their revenue during the COVID-19 shutdown, contributing to an operating loss of NZ$18.7 million.

Silver Lake on Tuesday acquired a minority stake in the Australian Professional League, which operates Australia’s top-flight men’s and women’s soccer leagues.

($1 = 1.4795 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)



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