A group of South Island-based private investors have been granted a five-year licence to operate the reigning Super Rugby champion Highlanders, a move that safeguards the franchise’s future until the end of 2020.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced on Friday that a four-member group headed by Dunedin businessman Matthew Davey – the founder and chief executive of ticketing agency Ticket Direct – had secured the licensing agreement.

The investors have a 77 per cent stake in the franchise – a significantly higher proportion than investors hold in New Zealand’s four other teams.

The Highlanders provincial unions retain a 13 per cent share and NZR hold the remaining 10 per cent for at least two years.


Licences have now been awarded to all New Zealand franchises, ending a process that started in late 2011.

“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 NZR chief executive 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.”

NZR retain ownership of the brands associated with each team and continue to fund player and head coach contracts, plus one assistant coach, from broadcasting and sponsorship revenue.

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