New Zealand Rugby takes controlling share in Blues

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) bought back a private investor's stake in the struggling Auckland Blues Friday after an independent review found the ownership structure was "unsustainable", the governing body said.

NZR said it had purchased Bolton Equities Limited's (BEL) 40 percent stake in the Super Rugby club for an undisclosed fee and was on the lookout for a new private investor.

The once-powerful Blues ended the season at the bottom of the New Zealand conference for the third-straight year and have not made the playoffs since 2011.

While NZR did not release the independent review, governance issues are believed to have played a part in the problems at New Zealand's worst-performing Super franchise.

The BEL investors reportedly clashed with other stakeholders, made up of provincial rugby unions, back in 2015 over whether to retain the-then coach John Kirwan.

BEL bought the stake in 2013 as part of an NZR scheme to attract private investors to improve the game's finances.

"We would like to thank BEL CEO Murray Bolton and his team for their contribution to the Blues over this period," NZR chief Steve Tew said.

Wellington Hurricanes, Canterbury Crusaders and Waikato Chiefs have adopted a similar ownership structure without encountering major issues.

The Blues have given current coach Tana Umaga one more year to improve the team's fortunes after recording just four wins in 2018.