Leicester Tigers have confirmed that the club has been put up for sale in an effort to return England's most successful team to the top of the game, with the 10-time Premiership champions valued at around £60m.
After the club’s 11th-place finish in the Premiership last season – the worst in their history – the decision has been taken to welcome offers from potential new owners, having fallen from their once mighty perch as English and European champions.
Leicester have not won the Premiership since 2013 and have seen the likes of Saracens and Exeter Chiefs surge ahead of them in recent years, though the 2018/19 campaign was nothing short of a catastrophic failure for the East Midlands club as they sacked head coach Matt O’Connor after the opening match of the season, replacing him with former club captain Geordan Murphy who was unable to turnaround their woeful form.
In a club statement, Leicester's executive chairman Peter Tom revealed that the recent investment from CVC Capital Partners into the Premiership - which saw all 13 stakeholders receive around £13m each - has triggered a decision to sell the club to capitalise on the growing interest in rugby union, particularly in a World Cup year, and after seeing the private equity branch develop both Formula One and MotoGP in the past by adding billions and millions onto their value respectively, Leicester hope this change in direction could do the same.
“Leicester Tigers has today announced plans for the sale of the club alongside a full strategic review as part of long-term plans to reclaim its status as a dominant force in English and European rugby,” a club statement on Tuesday morning read.
“The announcement follows CVC Capital Partners’ acquisition of a minority stake in Premiership Rugby Limited. CVC intends to develop the sport, repeating its success with Formula One and Moto GP. CVC’s investment sparked several expressions of interest in the Tigers from new investors, prompting the board to run a formal sale process in the best interests of the club, its players, supporters and shareholders.
The Leicester board have appointed advisory firm Zeus Capital to run their sale process, and believe that their status as the most-watched Premiership club with the highest attendance and season tickets across the league makes them an attractive option for investors.
Last season Leicester sold more than 11,000 season tickets and reported a 90 per cent renewal during the off-season despite last year’s struggles, with a turnover of around £20m and no debt thanks to CVC’s investment.
“CVC’s investment in Premiership Rugby has created a unique opportunity – catapulting the sport into the public consciousness like never before and broadening its appeal to potential investors,” said Tom. “It is our duty as a board to explore the club’s strategic options and assess the best possible ownership structure to benefit from the changes ahead on and off the pitch.”
Simon Cohen, Leicester’s chief executive officer, added: “The investment and changes in English Premiership rugby present a huge opportunity for the club and a new investor. As the most prestigious club in English rugby, this development will further support Leicester Tigers in its ambition to be the most successful club in England and Europe, to the benefit of our players, the club and our loyal supporters.”
Seventy-eight-year-old Tom, who made 130 first-team appearances for the club, owns about nine per cent of the club. With 44-year-old businessman Tom Scott the only other shareholder with a larger chunk of the Tigers as he owns around 46 per cent. The rest is made up of about 10,000 shareholders made up largely of supporters who own between 250 and 300 shares.