Historic deal brings new dawn for Southern Kings
Buyout of R45m sees squad become country’s first privately owned pro rugby franchise
After months of hard bargaining and secret meetings a historic deal has been struck which will see the Isuzu Southern Kings become South Africa’s first privately owned professional rugby club.
The R45m buyout deal was concluded on December 12, but the EP Rugby Union, SA Rugby and the business consortium closed ranks after their organisations shut for the festive season.
A source close to EP president Andre Rademan said: “The deal has been done after many months of tough bargaining that involved several stakeholders.
“This is an historic deal that will make the Kings the first privately owned franchise in the country.
“SA Rugby will make an official statement from Cape Town confirming the deal within the next couple of weeks.”
Rademan was not available for comment, but insiders said EP’s president played a major role in facilitating the buyout that is set to reinvigorate rugby in the Eastern Cape.
The consortium will own 74% of the franchise and the EPRU will have a 26% share.
Insiders say Rademan worked tirelessly to ensure that the bid was approved after it looked as though it had hit the rocks at one stage.
There were a series of allday meetings at EP Rugby headquarters where Rademan and consortium chair Loyiso Dotwana addressed stakeholders about the bid.
The influential Rademan, apart from heading the EPRU, is also chair of the Southern Kings board.
Such were the sensitivity of the talks that insiders said the consortium could walk away from negotiations if there were breaches of confidentiality.
The other members of the consortium are businessmen Gary Markson, Rory Stear and Kenny Govender and businesswoman Vuyo Zitumane.
After an all-day meeting in December Rademan said: “The whole equity deal was discussed and it was a frank discussion and very open.
“A resolution was taken that we do need an equity partner. We want all the stakeholders to be on the same page. This is so that everyone buys into the deal so there can be a positive impact going forward for the franchise and the EPRU.”
The consortium plans to create an academy so that the Eastern Cape can retain and grow rugby talent.
Dotwana said at the launch of the Isuzu sponsorship in August that a new dawn beckoned for rugby in the Eastern Cape province.
“We want to build a professional and competitive team for the long run,” he said.
“Our long-term ambition is to achieve incremental growth which, ultimately, will result in the Kings winning the PRO14 Championship.
“By creating an academy and team here, we want to retain the Eastern Cape’s talent.
“This is the home of black rugby. Our team will promote social cohesion in South African rugby,” Dotwana said.
Kings coach Deon Davids will be hoping cash is made available to buy new players and assistant coaches.
During the talks a transaction summary for the acquisition of a majority stake in SA Super Rugby (which controls the Kings) by the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World was distributed to clubs.
This season, the Kings have won only one of their opening 10 Guinness PRO14 matches and are struggling to make headway.
They face Edinburgh in Scotland on Saturday night and will be desperate for the log points on offer.