'Like-minded' business types pitch in to purchase 40 percent stake in Blues rugby

A group of prominent New Zealand business people have banded together to purchase a 40 percent slice in the Blues rugby franchise for a reported $1.7 million.

The franchise announced on Friday the Better Blues Company Limited would purchase the 40 percent holding in the Blues which had previously been held by New Zealand Rugby after they bought back the shareholding from the previous private owners three years ago.

The remaining 60 percent has been shared since 2013 between the provincial unions of Auckland, Northland and North Harbour.

Blues chairman Don Mackinnon said the organisation was “delighted” with the new investment from “some of the leading business people in this country” – a group led by former All Blacks coach John Hart and reported to include Manfreight director Don Braid, real estate company owner Peter Thompson and rich-lister Stephen Lockwood. The deal would be officially signed off in the new year after some minor transactional processes are ticked off.

“Their decision to make such a significant investment in the club shows the progress we have made on and off the field and the confidence in the direction in which we are heading,” said Mackinnon.

NZ Rugby’s professional game boss Chris Lendrum was delighted the Blues had found such committed investors.

“NZR has been happy to play a custodian role over the past three years, but our intention was always to bring in private equity partners to take the club forward,” he said.

Lendrum acknowledged the work done by appointed directors Richard Dellabarca, Sam Lotu-Iiga and Hart who had “put in a huge amount of time and effort to what has been a thorough and professional process”.

Better Blues spokesperson Hart said the new investors comprised a group of 12 “like-minded” people, and had been formed specifically to make this investment in the Blues.

Hart said all investors had been involved in rugby and the wider community within the region, and they were excited about the strategic direction the Blues were taking.

“We see our role as providing stability, support and continuity to the existing board and management,” Hart said.