More Businessmen To Join Consortium, Says Ribot

Melbourne - Gauci Bellamy EvansBy STEVE MASCORD

MORE prominent businessmen are over the next two weeks likely to join the consortium which has taken control of the Melbourne Storm, the club’s founder John Ribot says.

The protracted handover of the NRL and world champions from News Limited to a private ownership group known as Holding MS Australia finally took place late on Monday, with New Zealand businessman Bart Campbell unveiled as the new chairman and English rugby union administrator Mark Evans assuming control as CEO.

Melbourne business identities Gerry Ryan and Matthew Tripp were identified yesterday by Fairfax Media as other members of the new ownership group, although their names and those of any others involved were not confirmed by the club.

“I think the group of people that is there now is already exciting for Melbourne Storm fans and for rugby league,” Ribot, who with News Limited formed the Storm in 1998, said.

“But if we wait a couple of weeks, depending on a few things, then the people involved could add another dynamic to it completely. It could be even more exciting.”

Asked who he was expecting to jump on board, Ribot answered only: “Watch this space”.

Campbell, a 41 year old New Zealander, is the non executive chairman of TLA Worldwide, a sports management and marketing company with links to some of the biggest names in American sport.

He is also chief operating officer of Chimes Communications, which has a subsidiary he pioneered called Essentially Group. That company manages rugby union’s Michael Lynagh, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and cricket’s Ian Botham.

Tripp who made a reported fifty million dollars on the sale of sportsbet.com.au declined to comment on his Storm involvement when contacted yesterday while Ryan was unable to be reached.

It is understood a launch for the Melbourne Storm’s new corporate structure, to which media representatives will be invited and which most if not all stake holders will attend, has been pencilled in for June 7.

Evans, who said during a press conference it was his aim that the club be self sufficient by 2017, later told Fairfax media: “I am not sure if we are planning to divulge the financial involvement of each member of the consortium.

“But Bart Campbell is and will remain the majority shareholder.”

The impact of the takeover on the day to day running of the NRL club is expected to be minimal and Evans indicated predictions of sophisticated and audacious marketing campaigns were overstated.

“There are things you can do but in the end it is about concentrating on your core audience of four million people in Melbourne and getting as many of those people interested as possible,” he said.

Evans, who has stepped down from his consultancy role with Rugby League World Cup 2013, said the new ARL Commission had made rugby league clubs more attractive for prospective private owners. The NRL had unrealised commercial potential in the medium term, he added.

“I’m not predicting there’ll be a flood of them now but it is a good model that I wish we had in English rugby union 10 years ago,” he said.

He could not say how long the consortium planned to own the Storm but commented: “Any sports club, you’re only a custodian, aren’t you?

“It’s not like a lot of other business acquisitions where you’re looking for an exit the minute you take it over. That’s not the case.”

Evans said he expected the retention of captain Cameron Smith, off contract at the end of next season, to be a priority for the football department but would leave that to them. Smith was seen arriving at AAMI Park in his civvies about an hour after the media conference.

Outgoing CEO Ron Gauci said he took pride in helping the club recover from the salary cap scandal of 2010 and had developed a taste for sports administration.

After being appointed to find a buyer for the franchise, he said he would work on his golf game before deciding what role to assume when he re-enters the workforce.

Filed for: THE AGE

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