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South Africa Rugby Nears $75M Investment Deal with Ackerley Sports Group



The South African Rugby Union (SARU) is on the verge of securing a substantial $75 million investment from the Ackerley Sports Group, signalling a significant development in the financial landscape of the sport.


The Springboks, a formidable force in international rugby with four World Cup titles and currently holding the top spot in global rankings, are at the centre of this impending deal.


Scheduled for closure in May pending approval from SARU members, the investment will see the creation of a new business venture under SARU's umbrella. This entity will encompass all present and future revenue-generating assets of the Springboks and SARU, with a primary aim of expanding revenue streams derived from sponsorship, broadcasting rights, content creation, and match-day revenue. Notably, SARU's portion of the proceeds will be channeled towards supporting the operational costs of amateur rugby in South Africa.


Previously in talks with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners regarding investment, SARU has opted to collaborate with Ackerley Sports Group, granting SARU majority ownership of the new entity while ASG secures a roughly 20% stake. The deal's post-money valuation stands at an impressive $375 million, according to insider sources.


Drawing parallels with a similar investment in New Zealand Rugby by private equity firm Silver Lake in 2022, this agreement underscores the growing trend of strategic investments in rugby's commercial potential. Chris Ackerley, co-founder of Ackerley Sports Group, emphasized the opportunity to elevate the Springboks brand globally, citing the team's stature alongside the iconic All Blacks.


Structured as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) named "Win By One," the investment initiative will mobilise outside capital under Ackerley's stewardship. This venture aligns with Ackerley Sports Group's broader expansion efforts in the sports industry, spearheaded by twin brothers Ted and Chris Ackerley.


Timothy Kirkwood, Ackerley's London-based partner, will oversee the Springboks relationship, emphasising the team's consistent success on the field juxtaposed with potential untapped commercial opportunities.


The Ackerley family's rich history in sports investment, starting with their father Barry's ownership of NBA's Seattle Supersonics and WNBA's Seattle Storm, underscores their commitment to sports ventures. The recent involvement of the Ackerley brothers in notable sports franchises such as the Seattle Kraken and Leeds United Football Club further cements their position in the sports business landscape.


Looking ahead, Kirkwood envisions potential exhibition matches for the Springboks in the U.S. as interest in rugby grows in American markets. This strategic move coincides with the U.S.'s hosting of the 2031 Rugby World Cup, indicating a broader global expansion strategy for the iconic Springboks brand.

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