Robert Gumede, the billionaire businessman and chairman of technology group Gijima, has bought up just under half of Johannesburg’s Golden Lions Rugby Union.
Gumede has joined forces with long-time family friend, businessman Ivor Ichikowitz, to buy 49,9% of the union with the aim of bringing more black fans to rugby. Gumede owns 51% of the investment; Ichikowitz holds the remaining 49%.
Ichikowitz is the executive chairman of defence and armaments group Paramount, which has ties to Core Group, the SA distributor of Apple computer products.
Gumede has made several investments in sports recently, including in soccer and in golf.
He says he decided to invest in rugby when he saw the “unprecedented turnout” of black spectators at the Super 14 Final held at Orlando Stadium in Soweto earlier this year.
“Rugby has never been a sport close to the hearts of black people. But the number of people that turned up to the game in Orlando was great and proved that we do have an opportunity to grow the fan base in rugby,” he says.
“We want to turn the Lions into the Real Madrid of rugby and give the team a chance to be a South African legend,” he says.
Gumede says that he and Ichikowitz have been in negotiations with Lions management for some time.
“We started talking to the team long before they started winning again. To see what they have achieved over the past few weeks is a clear indication of the true potential for this brand.”
Ichikowitz says the investment is not only about driving the future of the Lions, but to boost the development of the game as a whole.
Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk says the investment will put the Lions in a better position to recruit and train new talent.
“It also allows us to harness our local talent with the purpose of creating future Springboks,” he says.
Gumede and Ichikowitz have declined to disclose the value of the deal. However, it is believed to worth tens of millions of rands. — Candice Jones, TechCentral