Auckland - The New Zealand Rugby Union has opened the path to outside investment in their Super rugby franchises, inviting bidders to buy management licenses in four of the union's five teams in the southern hemisphere competition from 2013.
The NZRU would retain the ownership of the Auckland Blues, Waikato Chiefs, Wellington Hurricanes and Canterbury Crusaders and be responsible for contracting of playing and coaching staff, the NZRU said in a statement on Friday.
The Otago Highlanders, the other New Zealand side in the southern hemisphere competition, would not be included, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said in the statement, as they were already seeking other opportunities.
"This is an early phase to get a real view of the level of interest in an opportunity to be associated with New Zealand's brand of rugby and what is considered to be the world's best rugby competition," Tew said.
The decision has been mooted for some time by the NZRU, who have been forced at various times to bail out all of the Super rugby teams, which are run by the provinces, and a number of domestic provincial sides.
The NZRU will also underwrite about NZ$10 million ($7.8 million) of the operating loss from the recent rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Tew said during the tournament the NZRU stood to lose about NZ$13 million this year because of the World Cup cutting into sponsorship, television and gate revenues.
The successful licensee would have the right to manage, operate, select and promote the team brand and the matches played by that team.
Their revenue-generating opportunities would include naming rights and non-rugby activities, but the teams would have to remain in New Zealand as part of the license agreement.
Expressions of interest would close on March 9, 2012 with shortlisted parties to submit a proposal by April and formal agreements concluded by June, the NZRU said.