The Cornish Pirates are set to sign an international deal that will trigger immediate investment in the club and lead to a potential tie-up with one of New Zealand’s top rugby organisations.
Former club owner Dicky Evans and fellow Pirates shareholder Martin Hudson, together with New Zealand-based Cornish businessman Colin Groves and the investment company Tamahere Limited, are working closely together to re-capitalise the club. Colin grew up in Truro and is a former English Schools and Colts rugby international.
Photo: A beaming Dicky Evans returns to Pirates board
The initial phase of the agreement will provide the Pirates with investment, advice and support for commercial and sponsorship arrangements, business planning, Stadium for Cornwall design and management, and the introduction of further potential investors.
The second phase of the agreement, which has yet to be concluded, would be a potential high performance partnership with the Chiefs Super Rugby Club and Waikato Rugby in New Zealand.
The New Zealand connections are led by two rugby businessmen, Dallas Fisher, Chairman and shareholder of the Chiefs and Colin, Chairman of Waikato Rugby Union.
Photo: Dallas Fisher Chairman of Chiefs in New Zealand
Dallas is a former partner at the international accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand and has many other New Zealand company ownerships and directorships, including his role as Managing Director of Montana Catering, the largest privately owned catering business in New Zealand. In the 1999-2001 period Dallas was a Trustee and CEO of the Trust that developed Waikato Stadium into a new 25,000 capacity rugby and events stadium. Dallas is also an independent Director of Ngai Tahu Tainui Go-Bus holdings Ltd.
Photo: Colin Groves, roots in Truro, now Chairman of Waikato RU.
Colin Groves grew up in Truro, played rugby for Cornwall at all levels, and was a Vice President for 12 years. He has spent most of the past 23 years as Director of Mergers and Acquisitions at Tetra Laval, one of the world’s largest private companies and makers of the renowned Tetra Pak. He chairs or advises a diverse range of companies spanning IT, Agri-Tech and equity investment.
Dallas and Colin are colleagues in Oriens Capital, a Private Equity company focused on rural New Zealand, based in the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato. Colin is Chairman and Dallas is a member of the Investment Committee.
Between them they will bring business acumen in terms of raising investment and stadium development, catering and conferencing expertise within a stadium environment, all allied to a top-class rugby franchise.
The re-capitalisation of the club will pave the way for a proposed £1.5 million share issue to put it on a more secure financial footing in the medium term, prior to an eventual move to the Stadium for Cornwall in Truro, with the Pirates and Truro & Penwith College as tenants.
Dallas Fisher will advise on Stadium design from a commercial perspective, to aid in building a catering, functions and conferencing business at the Stadium and to build a sustainable commercial and rugby business plan to take the Pirates forward.
The proposed joint venture between the various parties, which was approved by Pirates shareholders at a general meeting held on Thursday 22 September, will see a revamped board that will include Colin Groves, Dicky Evans, Martin Hudson and current board member Graham Stone.
Photo: Martin Haag, Pirates, St. Ives and Cornwall legend
Also joining the board will be: Martin Haag, former Pirates, England and Bath player, and more recently head coach for England’s Under 20 championship-winning team; Martin Tucker, a director at Truro and Penwith College and key partner in the Stadium for Cornwall project; and former Ernst & Young partner Paul Durkin from Newlyn.
Current board members Colin Hill, Leslie Eastlake and Chairman Ian Connell have stepped down.
Ian Connell, who wrote to all Pirates shareholders urging them to back the deal, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for the Pirates to enter into an exciting world-class partnership with new financial and commercial backing. I am delighted that shareholders have approved this excellent package.”
The new chairman of the Cornish Pirates will be elected by the new Board at its first meeting. The club has appointed former A&P Falmouth Chief Executive and Vice Chair of Cornwall College Group Peter Child as interim Chief Executive, while a permanent appointee is sought in the next six months.
Dicky Evans said: “When first contacted by Colin Groves he was looking for fish, specifically to set up an Omega-3 production facility. It is amazing to think that from small acorns (or in this case Newlyn fish) such a long distance deal could come to fruition.
“I personally would like to thank Pirates General Manager Tom Magill and Colin for starting this initiative. We are a long way from nowhere in Cornwall, but Cornish people such as Colin never forget their roots. We have strong similarities to the people of Waikato province, the home of the Maori people, particularly the often-neglected family ethic of looking after one another – something that is enshrined in Maori tradition. The same applies to the Cornish Pirates, our shareholders and myself. It is good to know there are kindred spirits out there prepared to go to the ends of the earth (including meetings in Dubai) to see top-class rugby in Cornwall.
“It is for this reason Martin Hudson and I are prepared to re-introduce investment in the Pirates as we can now see light at the end of the long tunnel. This deal will bring vast experience into the club through a global partnership that addresses immediate financial issues and paves the way for future investment and expertise to help us realise our Premiership ambitions – all in a controlled, financially sustainable environment.”
Colin Groves said: “I would like to pay tribute to Ian Connell and the board for their agreement in helping to facilitate this deal at a time when the club has struggled to balance the books. This heralds a new chapter for the Cornish Pirates and for rugby in both Cornwall and the Waikato, and I am delighted shareholders have approved it.”
Chiefs’ Chairman Dallas Fisher said: “The priority is to build the Club’s finances in the short term and attract further investment, and then look at creating a Stadium for Cornwall that operates sustainably with the Pirates and the College as the main tenants. Focusing on business partnerships and the game experience for fans will be a key element going forward.
“But what really excites me is when we get to discussing the rugby partnership. The Chiefs already have partnerships in Hong Kong and Japan providing rugby IP (intellectual property) designed to lift rugby performance for those organisations. The full nature of any potential high performance partnership is still under discussion and we look forward to a successful conclusion.”
Truro and Penwith College Director Martin Tucker said: “Truro and Penwith College is excited by the opportunities that this new performance partnership with the Cornish Pirates can bring, in adding strength to the delivery of the Stadium for Cornwall and importantly in forging greater links between our students and the world of professional and vocational sport. In partnership with the Cornish Pirates, the College remains fully committed to the Stadium for Cornwall and is looking forward to working with the new board, and other key partners, in bringing the project to fruition.”
Interim Pirates Chief executive Peter Child said: “By forging this international alliance we can learn a lot from each other and lay the foundations for Premiership rugby in Cornwall. The link with Truro & Penwith College is tremendously important for nurturing and developing young players, not only on the field, but also vocationally and professionally.”
New board member Martin Haag added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the fertile rugby talents and passions of Cornwall to develop a sustainable high performing team – unbelievable.”
Gavin Cattle, who co-coaches the Pirates with Alan Paver, said: “It is difficult to describe how exciting this all is for everyone. We spent time with the Super Team, the Hurricanes, in Wellington in May. Rugby in New Zealand is at a totally different level, it is a way of life and like a religion over there.”
The proposed rugby partnership will be subject to future approval by the respective board of Waikato Rugby and the Chiefs.