The Wellington-based Hurricanes Super rugby franchise is the first to settle with a new owner 10 months after the New Zealand Rugby Union put out the call for potential bidders.
The new entity, Hurricanes Investments LP, will be half-owned by the Wellington Rugby Football Union, a quarter held by former Brierley Investments boss Paul Collins, and the remainder divvied up between Wellington Phoenix operators Welnix and interests associated with Liz Dawson and Colin Oldfield, the NZRU said in a statement. The franchise runs for three years, with a five-year right of renewal. No value was given for the franchises.
The Canterbury-based Crusaders have agreed in principle on a licence arrangement, while the Auckland-based Blues have been given more time with international and regional bids made. The Waikato-based Chiefs failed to put forward a final bid.
"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," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said. "This was always a step into the unknown so to have secured two new operators is a good result."
The national sports administrator has been looking at ways to make the game more profitable, as provincial unions face the squeeze from dwindling attendance and, in some cases, poorly managed finances.
The NZRU embarked on a programme of selling the franchises after financial reviews found extra investment was needed to ensure the sustainability of the Super level of rugby.
Franchise holders will be responsible for the management of the team, marking and promotion of matches and will keep gate takings and some sponsorship income. The NZRU will retain ownership of the brands associated with each team and continue to pay for player and coach contracts and international travel through the SANZAR body.