Highlanders look to bright new future under new operators

  •          Five year licence awarded to new operator
  •          A group of primarily South Island private investors take a 77 percent stake
  •          Local Provincial Unions, New Zealand Rugby – 23 percent stake

Investec Super Rugby team the Highlanders has embarked on a new era with local Provincial Unions and South Island private investors being granted a licence to operate the team until 2020.

The combined group of investors will inject substantial new capital into the 2015 Super Rugby Champions.

The South Island private investor group is headed by Dunedin businessman Matthew Davey, Founder and CEO of ticketing agency Ticket Direct.  

Otago, Southland and North Otago Provincial Unions will have a 13 percent stake in the new operator.  New Zealand Rugby (NZR) retains a 10 percent share for the first two years which will further assist putting the side on a secure commercial footing.   The new venture is being underwritten by a guarantee from the Invercargill City Council in exchange for guaranteed Highlanders games in Invercargill.

“The Highlanders are now well placed to face the future with renewed confidence and build on what has been a very successful year on the field,” said NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.

“The investor group brings considerable commercial experience, particularly in the sports consumer marketing area and they have great knowledge of the business of rugby.  This experience, coupled with strong provincial union support, will really help the Highlanders build a sustainable business and take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.”

“For those who love rugby (like our group) it was simply too good an opportunity to pass up,” said Matthew Davey on behalf of the investor group.

“We see this as a good business opportunity but equally we have a strong emotional attachment to the South and for me in particular the Highlanders. They’ve been my team from the very early days of Super Rugby  but it’s also fair to say that we’ve been impressed with the work and results that Roger Clark, Jamie Joseph and the previous Highlanders board have achieved, in building the Highlanders up to a point where a group such as ours would be interested.

“We are an experienced, well-resourced an innovative group and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with rugby in the South and it’s certainly our ambition to build on the strong base that New Zealand Rugby has entrusted us with.”


Doug Harvie, independent director on the board of the new operating company said: “Having been involved with Provincial Unions and the Highlanders, I am very pleased with this investment consortium taking the reins for the ensuing years. The commercial acumen they bring is exceptional, and will put the Highlanders in the very best position to build on last year’s success.”

Today’s announcement completes the process begun in December 2011 with licences now awarded to operators of all five Investec Super Rugby teams. 

“When we embarked on this process we aimed to ensure the foundation for the professional game in this country remained strong and could adapt to future challenges and opportunities,” said Steve Tew. “We are now better equipped to ensure the professional game continues to feed a winning All Blacks team and keeps delivering for fans.”



Key facts Highlanders licence

  •          5 year licence to August 2020
  •          Shareholders:
    •    77 percent: private investor consortium of four individuals
    •    13 percent: Highlanders Provincial Unions; Otago Rugby Football Union, North Otago Rugby Football Union, Rugby Southland Ltd
    •    10 percent: New Zealand Rugby
  •          Seven person board – including one independent (Doug Harvie), two, one from Provincial Unions and New Zealand Rugby, four from private investors

Background on Investec Super Rugby Licences

The operators of the five Super Rugby teams are owned by New Zealand Rugby when originally set up, and were run by boards representing the provincial unions in the local region and independent board members. Reviews into the financial sustainability and structure of Super Rugby and franchises identified the need to reinvigorate the franchise model and provide for additional investment to improve its financial sustainability.

Expressions of interest were called for in December 2011 for four of the five licences. The Highlanders were not part of the process.

A Super Rugby Licensee’s responsibilities will include:

  •          management of the team both on-field and off-field including, the professional development for members of the squad
  •          marketing and promotion of matches and the team
  •          the Licensee will retain gate and sponsorship income and pay administration, additional coaching and management staff, training facilities, match operations, and marketing costs.

New Zealand Rugby will:

  •          retain ownership of the brands associated with each team
  •          continue to fund player and head (plus one assistant) coach contracts from centralised broadcasting and sponsorship revenue.
  •          continue to pay all travel and accommodation costs associated with the regular season (excluding playoffs) through SANZAR


SupeRugby logo header speights min 2 Degrees logo v2 University of Otago logo Swanndri  Coresteel Blis placemakers new logo banner 104 Adidas Logo Small min