The New Zealand Rugby Union is inviting expressions of interest in licences to manage and operate four of its five Super Rugby teams from 2013.
Chief executive Steve Tew says this follows an independent review and makes sense because it would provide the extra money needed to reinvigorate franchises.
Licensees would have the right to manage, operate, select and promote the team brand and the matches played by the team.
The NZRU will retain ownership of the Blues, the Chiefs, the Hurricanes and the Crusaders brands and remain responsible for contracting players and coaches.
The Highlanders are not included in the deal as Mr Tew says they are already exploring other opportunities.
He says it's hoped there'll be interest from a broad range of rugby and non-rugby individuals, organisations and consortiums in New Zealand and overseas.
The decision has been mooted for some time by the NZRU, which has at times been forced to bail out all of the Super Rugby teams, which are run by the provincial unions.