Tony McKeever: Dirty tactics by three 'Vans' hurting WP Rugby
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CAPE TOWN - Former Southern Spears chief executive, Tony McKeever, reckons the Western Province Rugby Football Union should reject Marco Masotti of MVM Holdings’ “insulting offer” so they can “move on and find bona fide investors and sponsors”.
Since WP Rugby started their ongoing talks with New York-based Masotti - who offered roughly R100million for a controlling stake in the Stormers - there have been no shortage of sub-plots to the main story around WP’s financial state.
Recently, independent director Raymond van Niekerk resigned following the non-renewal of fellow independent board members Andre van der Veen and Johan van der Merwe’s tenures. Back in June, Kevin Kiewietz also walked away from the union in protest over their handling of negotiations with Investec.
There was heavy pushing from the one camp prior to their departures for WPRFU president Zelt Marais to accept Masotti’s offer.
It’s a deal, McKeever reckons, that should be rejected.
“He (Masotti) is offering R100m ($6m) for 51% in a company that has an asset registry of at least R400m. That offer is but 25% of the WP Rugby property portfolio. It’s a naive offer, and why the WP board are even entertaining it well, we do know why, because the three Vans (Van der Veen, Van der Merwe,Van Niekerk) all seem to be running a trifecta here and are coupled at the tote,” the former chief executive of the Southern Spears said.
“These guys have all breached the confidentiality clause of the NDA of these discussions, and that is grounds for immediate termination of any further discussions or negotiations. Furthermore, for Masotti and Van der Veen to ambush Zelt Marais and the board delegates on a virtual meeting, by inviting selected rugby players to a virtual meeting without the courtesy of a pre-clearance who does that? It’s a complete ambush and hijacking of the virtual meeting and it’s unethical.”
It’s understood that Van der Veen was set for significant gain, with Masotti stating that the former independent board member would run WP Rugby if the deal was closed.
This clearly indicates the vested interest to be gained from the MVM proposal, McKeever said.
“They clearly went into this with the offer of a financial inducement by Masotti. Why push so hard for a low-grade financial transaction that is but a loan agreement and without any business plan?
"There’s no evidence or submission of a business plan, it’s just a capital offer - $2m to Western Province and $4m to the Stormers. That’s not a business plan, that won’t take you into the future and, quite frankly, it’s an insulting offer.”
McKeever added the union’s financial struggles can be resolved without entertaining MVM.
“I don’t think WPRFU are in as much trouble as people make out and in fact they have incredible opportunities open to them in the transition from Newlands to the R2.5billion Cape Town Stadium,” he added.
“What Zelt has done very effectively is consolidate their debt so they can negotiate properly, and why this crowd of the three Vans and MVM should run interference of this nature is no good to the franchise or WP Rugby it’s disruptive. Having said that, out of disruption can come innovation.”
Marais have confirmed that they had met with players to discuss their alleged concerns around the deal. But McKeever says need to understand that this deal is not great for the future of the union.
“The elite contracted players and their respective agents should step away from this. The players are being horribly compromised. They have roles as professional rugby players and they should stick to it," he said.
“I have to say, also, that a number of players are influencers in their social media communities and they have their own followers, and that’s fine, but those don’t determine the financial sponsorship value.
"They’re doing themselves and the rugby franchise, along with the current sponsors, a huge injustice, and compromising the discussions by even so much as thinking that this offer by these three Vans and MVM is one of value, it’s not. It’s below value and should be rejected."