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CVC secures Six Nations win in battle for rugby’s future

Six months after it was first reported that CVC Capital Partners was eyeing a stake in Six Nations Rugby, the private equity giant is now close to acquiring a stake in the sport’s oldest championship—a tournament played between England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.

Six months after it was first reported that CVC Capital Partners was eyeing a stake in Six Nations Rugby, the private equity giant is now close to acquiring a stake in the sport’s oldest championship—a tournament played between England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.

Dublin-based Six Nations told PitchBook that it has agreed to enter into an exclusive negotiation period with an outside investor, which reports have identified as CVC. The Times has reported that the firm is seeking 15% of the rugby competition operator in a deal worth more than £300 million (around $375 million). In March, the BBC had reported that CVC was originally eyeing a 30% stake.

A spokesperson for Six Nations told PitchBook in an email: “Six Nations believes that investment in rugby football is vital for the long-term future of our game and this belief is central in our decision to enter into this period of negotiation.”

This is not CVC’s first foray into the sport. In December, the former Formula One owner picked up a minority stake in Premier Rugby, the company behind the top league in the English Rugby Union system. The deal saw CVC pay £230 million for a 27% stake, according to reports. The firm is said to have initially sought a 51% majority stake, but was rebuffed. This latest move follows the failure of a reported competing plan from the sport’s international governing body: World Rugby.

Competing vision

World Rugby is believed to have hoped to counter the CVC offer by setting up an international championship, incorporating Six Nations, in a deal with Swiss marketing company Infront Sports & Media, which is backed by Hong Kong’s Wanda Sports. It reputedly scrapped the deal after failing to get unanimous support from its members.

The announcement is not without controversy, however. If successful, it will see CVC become one of the most influential stakeholders in the sport, which is something that not everyone is comfortable with. When asked about the transaction at a Tokyo press conference this week, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said he could not decide whether the latest deal will be good or bad, according to AFP.

“Certainly as big an investor in the sport as a private equity firm like CVC will create influence, and that’s something that in some areas could concern us,” he said, again per AFP, adding: “The areas concerning you are with a high-funding commercial owner of the sport that isn’t the governing body, then certain calls might be made that aren’t in the interests of growth or perhaps player welfare.”

Featured image via skynesher/E+/Getty Images

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    Written by Andrew Woodman
    Andrew Woodman is PitchBook’s London Bureau Chief and oversees news coverage from Europe. Andrew has been reporting on the private markets since 2012. He was previously an editor with Private Equity International and with the Asian Venture Capital Journal. A Japanese speaker, he spent the best part of a decade in Asia, living and working in both Japan and Hong Kong.
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