Private equity firm CVC to take up a new sport?

Everyone, whether they be a football fan or not, is used to the fact that football clubs change hands as regularly as they change their players, and typically for vast sums of money. On the other hand, this has not typically been the case in the sport of rugby, the game often referred to as a “hooligans game played by gentlemen”.  However, this week has seen CVC Capital, the former owner of the Formula One franchise that it sold in 2017 to Liberty Media, being linked with Premiership Rugby, the company behind the English professional rugby union tournament representing the highest division of the English rugby union system.

Premiership Rugby is currently co-owned by its 13-member clubs, and was formed back in 1995 when the sport of rugby union turned professional. The only other private equity investment I can find in rugby union was back in 2009 when South African private equity investor Bunker Capital acquired a 50 per cent stake in the South Western Districts Eagles, and even now determining what happened to that investment is not exactly easy. For CVC to even be considering this investment, there must be a belief that rugby, one of the most popular sports in the southern hemisphere, will provide an opportunity for growth and good returns. Interestingly, it may see CVC benefit from being a “first-mover” in the world of strangely-shaped balls.