- A local investor is planning an offer to buy the embattled Southern Kings franchise.
- The idea is for the company to come on board and enable the franchise to use the “fertile” Eastern Cape land for hemp farming.
- Tony McKeever, a former Southern Spears CEO, is in talks with the company and also suggests changing the Southern Kings name to Mandela Bay Saints.
A South African investor, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) for over two decades, is planning an offer to buy the Southern Kings.
This was revealed to Sport24 in an interview with Tony McKeever, a former CEO of the Eastern Cape franchise.
McKeever also suggested a name change, representing the icons of the region, and the union using the “fertile” Eastern Cape land for hemp farming as a way to ensure the sustainability of the franchise and its players via the rugby clubs.
The renewed interest in buying the Kings comes after SA Rugby’s decision in late June to take management control over the franchise by taking back a 74% shareholding.
It followed the failure of the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC) in meeting its financial commitments relating to the acquisition of the shareholding.
It’s not the first time that the country’s rugby governing body had to step in at the Kings, having also done so in 2015 when the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU), to whom the operation of the franchise had been granted, ran into financial trouble.
McKeever is upbeat regarding the potential new owners, agreeing that a significant monetary investment is non-negotiable for the future of rugby in the Eastern Cape.The former rugby boss said the company, for whom he has done consultancy work, is listed as an entity on the JSE.
“They also have a presence in Europe, so it would make sense… they can give a foster home to the likes of the Southern Kings, which has really been beaten up… they (the Kings) have a bad reputation. They’re very tatty,” he added.
The company’s name is known to Sport24, but has been withheld due to negotiations being in the infancy stages.
“It’s an initial discussion, but I would say that SA Rugby are aware that there is interest from a Johannesburg-listed corporate,” McKeever said.
McKeever, however, did shed more light on the vision the company has for Eastern Cape rugby – one that may raise a few eyebrows among traditionalists.
“I’m consulting to them on the expansion of their products in the health and wellness area – around CBD derivative products – and I told them that the Eastern Cape is an incredibly fertile area for cannabis and hemp. The people I’m speaking to have licenses to grow, export and commercialise.”
He pointed to the vast number of clubs in the region that could get involved.
“If one can engage with the clubs… in Eastern Province, there are…