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EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with the Stormers' new benefactors

When it was confirmed this past week that the Red Disa consortium concluded its equity deal to secure a controlling shareholding in Western Province Professional Rugby, it was not exactly a secret.

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It had been widely reported that the consortium – consisting of the Cape Town-based investment holding company Fynbos Ekwiteit, Ardagh Glass Packaging and Marble Head Investments have pooled their resources to save the Stormers from drowning in debt and being killed off by petty infighting.

There were attempts from the same factions which initially landed the Cape Town franchise and its parent body, Western Province Rugby Football Union, in this monetary mire, to put the kibosh on.

However, they had already lost their grip when the South African Rugby Union placed the union under administration in October 2021.

There were a couple of false starts, but through painstaking and arduous exertion the process was dragged over the line.

Fynbos Ekwiteit’s Johan le Roux, one of the main driving forces behind the new equity partner, sat down with @king365ed to explain the process and why they initially walked away from what had become a dogfight.

Le Roux revealed that long before Red Disa was ‘born’, his father (banking billionaire Michiel le Roux) and himself saw that WPRFU was looking for an equity partner.

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“I thought: ‘It is fairly priced’ for such an iconic brand,” he told @rugby365com.

“I had a chat with my dad and asked if he wants me to have a look at it.

“He said: ‘Yes’.

“We met with Rian Oberholzer, who was the administrator at that stage.

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“It transpired about 10 people were looking at the asset.

“Our only goal would have been to save Western Province if nobody wanted to buy it.”

He explained that they almost immediately walked away from the process.

(WATCH as @king365ed sits down with Fynbos Ekwiteit’s Johan le Roux to find out who and what the Red Disa consortium is….)

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It was almost a year later that Stormers coach John Dobson reached out to Michiel le Roux to sit around the table again.

“The equity process didn’t lead to a deal and John [Dobson] saw the writing on the wall for WP,” Le Roux junior said.

“He wanted the asset to land with someone who could take it forward,” he added.

The alternative, he said, would have been another liquidation – something that happened during the Aerios saga back in 2016.

“It was a thought, as a Western Province fan, that I could not stomach,” he told @rugby365com.

Dobson explained to the Le Roux family that the asset is more valuable to the people of the Cape than just the numbers (value) on a piece of paper.

Pictures of farm workers, riding on the back of a bakkie in the rain from Ceres, to come watch a URC Final at the Greenpoint-based stadium showed what it meant to the Western Cape communities that had so little to cheer about.

“We decided that it was not a commercial investment,” Le Roux said, adding: “On the philanthropic side of the family’s balance sheet, we were happy to look at it.

“There were two other parties still interested and – after a round of ‘speed dating’ with the other parties – we decided that the Ardagh Group from Ireland had similar objectives to us.

“They saw it as a community project,” he said of a company that successfully concluded a strategic acquisition of Consol Glass and operates 63 metal and glass production facilities in 16 countries.

They have community projects in every country they operate in and the Stormers are their community project in South Africa.

“The motive of Ardagh was more aligned with us.

“The other party was a commercial private equity that would drive the bottom line and probably sell the asset when they have to give their investors’ money back.

“We decided to partner with Ardagh and that is where [Red] Disa was formed.”

The third investor is André van der Veen, Marble Head Investments (Pty) Ltd.

Van der Veen, a well-heeled and respected businessman, was at the heart of many of the Newlands boardroom skirmishes before his departure as an independent director of the board of the troubled WPPR back in 2020.

“He was instrumental in getting Dobbo [John Dobson] to reach out to our family,” Le Roux said.

Van der Veen’s Marble Head owns just 2.5 percent of the 74 percent shares of WPPR, with Red Disa (owned 50 percent by Fynbos Ekwiteit (Pty) Ltd and 50 percent by Ardagh) owns 71.5 percent.

The other 26 percent is owned by the union, Western Province Rugby Football Union.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Don’t miss parts two and three of this #EXCLUSIVE interview, when Le Roux chats about the split between WPPR and WPRFU, as well as what Red Disa’s plans are for the Stormers.

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