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Potential gamechanger as Sharks strike deal with US majority shareholder

Liam Del Carme Sports reporter
Henco Venter of the Cell C Sharks during the Super Rugby Unlocked matvh between Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs at Jonsson Kings Park on November 06, 2020 in Durban, South Africa.
Henco Venter of the Cell C Sharks during the Super Rugby Unlocked matvh between Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs at Jonsson Kings Park on November 06, 2020 in Durban, South Africa.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Never averse to testing the waters‚ the Sharks took the plunge where Western Province froze and have concluded a shareholder deal with a foreign company that may yet have far-reaching implications for South African rugby.

The success of their agreement that hands a 51 majority share to American investment firm MVM Holdings will in some ways be inextricably linked to what happens down the coast at cash-strapped Western Province‚ who had serious misgivings about relinquishing their controlling share.

The Sharks believe their new majority partner‚ with its vast network across continents‚ industries and sporting codes will help broaden their global footprint.

Clearly enthused by the new arrangement the Sharks referred to their new partner as “dynamic”‚ and “a global force”.

“MVM Holdings‚ an international investment consortium spearheaded by Marco Masotti‚ has entered into an agreement with current shareholders‚ the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union and SuperSport International‚ will hold the remaining 49 percent of the franchise. The financial terms of the transaction are confidential‚” the franchise said in a statement.

“MVM Holdings brings significant finance‚ sports and management expertise and resources to The Sharks franchise. In addition to Masotti‚ the members of the consortium include Vincent Mai (chairman and CEO of Cranemere LLC)‚ Marc Lasry (founder of Avenue Capital and owner of the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks team)‚ Doug Cifu (CEO of Virtu Financial‚ Inc. and owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers team)‚ Robert D. Haswell (founding Partner of Dominus Capital)‚ Dominic Silvester (CEO of Enstar Group Limited) and Michael Yormark (president of Roc Nation Sports International).

“Roc Nation will assist with the global expansion of The Sharks brand.

“With the international rugby landscape poised to undergo transformational change in the coming years‚ investors have identified rugby as an attractive opportunity and invested in some of Europe’s leading rugby competitions.

“It is expected that the enlarged Pro16 competition will accelerate this trend. Navigation of the fast-changing rugby business requires a diverse and strong shareholder group who can implement a strategic plan and provide the resources to ensure that The Sharks become the premier rugby brand in the world.”

Masotti‚ who is based in New York and leads MVM Holdings‚ grew up in Amanzimtoti and is a life-long Sharks fan.

“His expertise as a pre-eminent advisor to international asset management firms has enabled him to put together a group of investors who share the vision and expertise to ensure the continued growth of The Sharks franchise‚” the statement read.

Masotti was quoted as assaying: “The Sharks have a deep and wonderful history that can translate into a formidable global rugby brand.

“Our investment is designed to facilitate the expansion of the franchise through deep relationships with business people‚ financing sources and other sporting codes. We believe that rugby provides a unique platform for character and community building.

“We intend to shine a global light on the city of Durban and create opportunities for players from diverse backgrounds to become international stars.”

Brian Van Zyl‚ the newly-elected president of the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union‚ said MVM Holdings will bring not only greater commercial savviness but also international ties that will result in the Sharks becoming one of the most recognised global sports brands.

MVM Holdings had previously offered $6-million for a controlling share in Western Province but the union were at best lukewarm to their advances.