Rugby

Rupert to ride to WP Rugby rescue?

2016-11-14 14:10
Johan Rupert (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – WP Rugby president Thelo Wakefield has hinted that Remgro, chaired by tycoon and long-time sports-lover and funder Johann Rupert, may extend its stake at Newlands to help remedy the financial crisis that has gripped the union.

The liquidation of WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd was confirmed by the Western Province Rugby Football Union last week, following exclusive earlier reports on Sport24 of woes including a projected loss for the year of more than R11 million and a claim by Aerios, who hold commercial rights in WP, for immediate payment of R72 million over advertising rights sold “to third parties”.

In an interview with Hanlie Retief of Afrikaans newspaper Rapport on Sunday, Wakefield said that Remgro extending its current stake (of 24.9 percent) in WP Rugby could not be ruled out.

Sport24 sought reaction on Monday from Remgro chief investment officer Jannie Durand, who also handles media matters, but he said they had no comment.

The WP president is typically ebullient in the extensive interview, volunteering to Retief that “people see me often in Stellenbosch (where Remgro has its headquarters) these days … I tell them at least I wasn’t visiting a shebeen there”.

Wakefield claims “the highest regard” for Remgro, adding: “All I can say is (that) Johann Rupert is a man who very much loves WP.”

Outside parties owning stakes higher than 49 percent in rugby unions in South Africa - many of them embattled financially - is currently forbidden, but new SARU president Mark Alexander has already said they might be allowed to take majority stakes.

Those stakes would reportedly have a ceiling of 74 percent.

Retief writes in the interview: “Is Wakefield driving to Stellenbosch because Remgro is perhaps going to own 74 percent of WP Rugby shortly?”

He replies: “There is a percentage limit according to the SARU constitution … we must still see if that proposal goes through.

“If privatisation is the (saviour) of rugby in South Africa, well and good. We debate it in SARU in December.”

Wakefield does not rule out Remgro upping its stake:  “But there’s not just Remgro. It could be anybody … SuperSport, Sanlam, Old Mutual …”

Wakefield also pooh-poohs rumours that, at a stormy  SARU meeting in April, he shouted at former SARU president Oregan Hoskins that he (WP) would rather go bankrupt than privatise by more than 50 percent.

Investigative journalist Graeme Joffe (@joffersmyboy) tweeted last week: “Thelo Wakefield: ‘I’d rather go bankrupt than privatise over 50 percent’. Fiduciary duties of a director? No wonder WP Rugby is in so much trouble!”

This is Wakefield’s version of events: “What do the (minutes) say? Whoever said that, lies. How the hell would I say that? Rather be bankrupt? With all the negative connotations and publicity?

“Do you think it is nice to sit here as president of a bankrupt union? Do you think I would make such an irresponsible statement?”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    wp  |  johann rupert  |  thelo wakefield  |  rugby
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