Canes get new backers, Crusaders set to float too

The New Zealand Rugby Union's sold the operating rights to the Hurricanes rugby franchise licence for at least three years to a new partnership, which includes the Welnix group - owners of the Wellington Phoenix football franchise.

The Wellington-based Hurricanes will be half-owned by the Wellington Rugby Football Union, a quarter held by former Brierley Investments boss Paul Collins and the remainder held by Welnix and another group, Forsyth Morrison.

It's the first of the NZRU's five Super Rugby licences to be tendered out, with an announcement on the Crusaders expected within the next month.

The New Zealand Rugby Union will continue to contract the players and coaching staff.

The licensee's responsibilities include management of the team both on and off the field.

The new Hurricanes board will be led by Brian Roche with Collins, Dawson, Tony Duffin, Gareth Morgan, Garry Poole and Iain Potter on the board.

The Crusaders region consortium is less far down the track and has agreed in principle an operating licence with a final contract is expected to be signed within a month.

Options are still being considered both regionally and internationally for the Blues and the franchise needs more time to consolidate a final bid - but Tew says he expects a bid for the Blues will be submitted to allow a licence to be issued for 2014.

An initial expression of interest was also received for the Chiefs.

However the Chiefs were not able to finalise a bid and Tew says it is disappointing, though a new, commercially-focused six-member board has been appointed by the NZRU for a six-month period to build on the Chiefs' success.

Four independent directors and two directors representing provincial unions form the board, which is made up of Matthew Boyd, Jeremy Curragh, Dallas Fisher, Phil Harris, Brian King and Jon Mayson.

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