IT billionaire Robert Gumede, who is a substantial investor in JSE-listed IT group Gijima, and his long-time friend and business partner, Ivor Ichikowitz of defence and armaments group Paramount, have pulled the plug on their plan to invest in Johannesburg’s Golden Lions Rugby Union.
In a brief statement on Tuesday, the union confirmed that a consortium led by the two men, Guma TAC, had walked away from the deal that would have resulted in it buying 49,9% of Lions rugby. Gumede was to have held 51% of the investment, with Ichikowitz holding the remaining 49%.
Gumede is nonexecutive chairman of Gijima and Ichikowitz is executive chairman of Paramount, which has ties to the Core Group, the SA distributor of Apple computer products.
“It is with deep regret that the Lions have received this notification today as we … saw the arrangement as a wonderful opportunity to embrace the new future for the Golden Lions in a vibrant new partnership,” the union says in a statement on its website. It does not say why the talks broke down.
When the deal was announced last October, Gumede told TechCentral that he had decided to invest in rugby after seeing the “unprecedented turnout” of black spectators at the 2010 Super 14 Final, held at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
“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 said at the time. “We want to turn the Lions into the Real Madrid of rugby and give the team a chance to be an SA legend.”
Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk says the union had worked “very long and very hard” to deliver a workable final shareholders’ agreement. “We were prepared to keep working on that process, but unfortunately the agreement could not be concluded.”
De Klerk says the dissolution of the deal will “not have a negative impact on the team’s preparations for the Absa Currie Cup” and the decision will “free the union from the negotiating table to concentrate on its core responsibilities”. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
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