Springboks, South Africa Rugby Near $75M Ackerley Investment – Sportico

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By Kurt Badenhausen
Sports Valuations Reporter
The South African Rugby Union (SARU), the governing body of the Springboks national team, is close to a deal for a $75 million investment from Ackerley Sports Group. The Springboks are a four-time world champion and are currently the No. 1-ranked national rugby team in the world.
The deal is on track to close in May but still needs approval from SARU members.
Ackerley will invest in a new business venture that will hold all current and future revenue-generating assets of the Springboks and SARU. The goal is to expand sponsorship, broadcasting, content and match-day revenue. SARU’s share of the proceeds will fund the costs of running the amateur game in South Africa. SARU had previously held talks with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners about an investment.

SARU will be the majority owner of the new entity, while ASG holds a roughly 20% stake. The post-money valuation on the deal is $375 million, according to someone familiar with the transaction. ASG would not comment on specific deal terms.
In 2022, SARU posted revenue of 1.54 billion rand ($82 million in current exchange rates).
The agreement is similar to the 2022 investment from private equity firm Silver Lake into New Zealand Rugby, which operates the All Blacks national team. That called for new company with commercial rights that Silver Lake invested up to $200 million for a stake between 5.7% and 8.6% of New Zealand Rugby.
“When we think about the two most storied teams in the world today, we see that as the All Blacks and the Springboks,” Chris Ackerley said in a phone interview. “To work with SARU to bring this brand to the next level globally is an incredible opportunity.”
Ackerley is structuring a special purpose vehicle for the investment and will raise outside capital. The SPV name, Win By One, is a nod to the Springboks’ 2023 World Cup run that included wins in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final by one point each time.
In December, twin brothers Ted and Chris Ackerley launched Ackerley Sports Group as an expansion of their investment firm Ackerley Partners, which is based in Seattle. Their London-based partner, Timothy Kirkwood, will oversee the Springboks relationship.
“If you look at the consistent performance of teams across the world in almost any sport, there’s very few that have had the success the Springboks have had,” Kirkwood said in a phone interview. “But there is a disconnect on the field and performance on the business side.” Kirkwood also highlights the attractive valuation relative to pro teams in other sports.
The Ackerley family’s investments in sports started with their father Barry, who bought the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics in 1983 and then added the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. In 2001, he sold the clubs to Howard Schultz for $200 million. The brothers invested in the Seattle Kraken expansion franchise, and last year joined 49ers Enterprises as an investor when it assumed majority control of the Leeds United Football Club. They are also investors in Major League Rugby club Seattle Seawolves.

The Springboks have represented the South African Rugby Union in international rugby since 1891. They made their Rugby World Cup debut in 1995 when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the event. That team defeated the All Blacks in the final, and the story was turned into a Hollywood movie, Invictus, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, and directed by Clint Eastwood. The Springboks won their fourth World Cup last year.
Kirkwood says he wants to bring the Springboks to the U.S. for an exhibition as American interest in the sport grows. The U.S. is set to host the 2031 Rugby World Cup, which will be the 12th edition of the quadrennial championship.
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