Exclusive: Identity of investors taking over Cardiff Rugby revealed

The investors taking over Cardiff Rugby are said to have long-term plans to transform the club both on and off the pitch

It is solely possible to identify the investors who are buying Cardiff Rugby and have big intentions to change the team both on and off the field.

Welshman With ties to Wales through family, Philip Kempe, a global businessman with holdings ranging from real estate to hospitality, has teamed up with financier Neal Griffith to acquire the controlling stake in the Cardiff Arms Park club through the special purpose company Helford Capital Ltd. Through the use of a competent advisory firm, the WRU conducted due diligence on the new proprietors.

In addition to taking on the role of the club’s regional principal investors, which all four Welsh regions were required to do under a recent six-year funding agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union, the new owners intend to use their extensive global networks and business interests, particularly in the Middle East, to secure additional funding.

Mr. Kempe started out as an entrepreneur by managing the UK’s first McDonald’s franchise locations. Former investment banker Mr. Griffith has a wide range of international business interests in which he is involved as a director and investor.

To approve the deal, the club is scheduled to hold a general meeting in January.

It’s believed that the club’s new owners have identified several brands that would be interested in long-term commercial sponsorship agreements, including stadium and other naming rights opportunities.

They see Cardiff as a “sleeping giant” that must regain its illustrious past as one of the most renowned teams in the world.

Through the agreement, they will acquire a majority stake in the company, with Cardiff Athletic Club (CAC) holding a minority stake. They now own the equity of Paul Bailey and Martyn Ryan, the Smart family’s principal investors in the club.

Although the departing investors will only get a small payment for their shares, they may be able to use the loss to reduce their tax obligations.

Prior to his passing, the club’s president and longtime donor Peter Thomas consented to serve as its primary investor, meeting a condition of the new finance agreement that the four regions reached with the WRU.

The new owners are now responsible for that liability, relieving the Thomas family of that obligation. The financial commitment required of all regional major investors over the next six years will be contingent upon commercial performance. But given past trading losses in the local competition, it can reach millions of pounds.

Mr. Kempe, a former Formula 3 racing driver, has been friends with Arms Park officials for almost 20 years. About six years ago, he was also involved in plans to renovate Arms Park and add a new indoor arena that would have allowed it to hold concerts and rugby matches.

Nevertheless, an agreement could not be reached for the rugby club renter to sign a new long-term lease with property development rights with Cardiff Athletic Club (CAC), the ground’s owner.

The Professional Rugby Board (PRB) mediated the funding agreement with the WRU, which does not include a player pay cap for the current campaign. But, with the exception of two big additions, it will drop to £4.5 million starting in the 2024–2025 season.

In order to surpass the agreed-upon player squad budgets in the upcoming years, Cardiff’s new owners would need to seek permission from the other regions as well as the WRU via the PRB. On the other hand, this illness is seen more as a “pleasant headache to have” and something that can be worked through. The club is still able to invest more in rugby-related infrastructure and its commercial operations team despite the cap.

David Buttress, the Dragons’ chairman, has previously stated that he would be in favor of steady increases in funding for Cardiff Rugby.

Although it was not a requirement of the acquisition agreement, it is believed that the new owners are eager to investigate how they may assist the ground’s landlord in revitalizing the aging property. Cardiff Arms Park Redevelopment Company Ltd. was established by CAC as a special purpose business last year in order to make proposals for the ground’s development.

This could result in the smaller north stand being replaced by a new structure that incorporates a hotel with banqueting facilities. At the River Taff end of the ground, residential development is also a possibility.

Mr. Kempe and Mr. Griffith’s primary concern, though, will be to prolong the present short-term lease with CAC, which runs out next year.

Verifying the investment “A number of interested parties, who could invest in the club, were identified following the passing of Peter Thomas, our long-standing president and benefactor,” said Alun Jones, chair of Cardiff Rugby.

“We are happy to announce that, subject to a general meeting, contracts have been exchanged with Helford Capital Ltd., who will take over as the company’s new owners.

“Cardiff Rugby is deeply grateful to the family of Peter Thomas for their unwavering support and commitment throughout the years, and for his sudden passing in March.

We also thank a number of other notable investors who have agreed to let Phil, Neal, and their partners to take over as leaders.

Cardiff Rugby is going through a historic and monumental time, and we are all very excited about what is ahead for the club.

“In due course, we look forward to sharing with supporters the club’s vision and strategy, and putting it into action with Helford Capital leading the way.”

In a statement on behalf of Babs Thomas and the entire Thomas family, Craig Davies stated: “With Peter’s untimely death, it was time to pass the torch to people who share his passion and vision and who can lead and support the club.

Peter contributed a great deal to Cardiff Rugby over many years, and it is crucial that the club is handed to the proper individuals. We are entrusting Phil and Neal with Peter’s legacy, and after getting to know Phil and Neal over the years and hearing about their detailed plans, we are certain that Cardiff is in capable hands and that its fans will be satisfied with the results.

“We sincerely thank all of the individuals who have contributed to this process, and we now look forward to returning to Arms Park, staying involved, and supporting the Blue and Blacks.”

Sir Gareth Edwards has agreed to take on the role of honorary president of the club as part of the agreement.

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