London Irish Holdings plc announced today on Thursday that a majority shareholding in the company has been acquired by a consortium of London based Irish businessmen.
London Irish Holdings is the parent company of London Irish Scottish Richmond Limited which manages the Aviva Premiership team, and other companies including one that owns and will operate the club’s new Centre of Excellence training and administration complex at Hazelwood, Sunbury on Thames, that is on schedule to open in summer 2014.
The consortium is led by Mick Crossan, Executive Chairman of Powerday plc, the recycling and environmental waste management group, which is the principal sponsor of both the London Irish professional and amateur teams.
Mr Crossan will be President of London Irish and David Fitzgerald, a former London Irish club captain and experienced international businessman, will be interim Executive Chairman.
The consortium will issue an offer document for the remaining shares that it doesn’t own in London Irish Holdings within 28 days.
The change of ownership has been approved by the Rugby Football Union.
During the summer, the successful completion of the sale of the club’s home for the past 79 years at The Avenue, Sunbury on Thames, prompted the then majority shareholders to review their position. They recognised that substantial new investment will be required if the club is to realise its potential and so after seeing the club through the first 18 years of the professional era, they decided to sell their shares.
The new owners have committed substantial new funds to the club that will be used:
• To further invest in the new Centre of Excellence at Hazelwood
• To strengthen the professional playing squad
• To re-invigorate the club’s Academy by developing new players from Berkshire, Hampshire and the London Irish amateur club
• To invest in experienced management and support staff
London Irish also confirmed that its Chief Executive, Andy Martin has left the business by mutual agreement. A new Chief Executive will be appointed in due course, in the meantime the club will be managed by an executive group consisting of David Fitzgerald, the interim Executive Chairman; Chris Miles, Chief Operating Officer; Kieran McCarthy, Head of Rugby Operations; Jim O’Toole, Commercial Director; and Brian Smith, Director of Rugby.
Speaking at a media conference to announce the changes, Mick Crossan, the club’s new President said, “The members of the consortium are delighted to assume responsibility for London Irish at this important time in the club’s history. The club is known and respected throughout the world and is a sleeping giant in terms of its unrealised potential. We’re looking forward to working with all the club’s stakeholders to take it to the next level.”
London Irish was formed in 1898 and bought its current base at The Avenue, Sunbury on Thames in 1934. The club went professional in 1996 while maintaining an Amateur section. The professional club has been a member of the Premiership since it started while the Amateur club has thrived and currently competes in National League 2 South. London Irish is the only club in the country to have teams competing at these levels. In addition, the club has a thriving mini and youth section which hosts the biggest Mini Rugby Festival in this country every April.
Earlier this year the club announced that it had acquired the Hazelwood Golf Club in Sunbury on Thames as the location for its new Centre of Excellence training and administration complex. Work is well advanced on the construction of the new facilities and the five full sized adult pitches and 12 junior pitches which will be ready for use in summer 2014.