NRL: Glenn joins Watson in Warriors ownership

Billionaire Owen Glenn with Eric Watson the new joint owners of the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Billionaire Owen Glenn with Eric Watson the new joint owners of the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Eric Watson and Owen Glenn are combining their considerable financial muscle and have agreed a partnership in the Warriors based on a 50-50 relationship.

Watson has been involved in the club since 2000 and held a 75.5 per cent share but bought out the remaining 24.5 per cent held in trusts by Mark Hotchin. He's since sold a 50 per cent share to Glenn for an undisclosed sum and kept that money in the club.

It means the Warriors are in a powerful position to become one of the pre-eminent clubs in the NRL with considerable buying power but Glenn said they wouldn't be making a play for All Black Sonny Bill Williams, who is rumoured to be on the verge of returning to the NRL next season with the Roosters.

"Earlier this year, before we decided to do this, I happened to be chatting to Eric and said, 'Sonny Bill has been offered $5.6 [million] to go to an Australian club, shall we top it? Eric said no and I said no. Let them have the show pony. He's not a bad player, he's a bloody good player, but you would be looking over your shoulder all day."

Glenn - who has consistently rejected claims he's a billionaire but sold the company he founded, OTS Logistics Group, late last year for $500 million - has a significant track record in investing in sport in New Zealand. He has donated $3.85 million to the high performance sports academy in Albany and has given more than $2 million to develop hockey in New Zealand.

"I'm mainly concerned with seeing the development of youth," Glenn said. "We will do fantastically well in recruitment and attracting younger players, particularly of Maori and Pacific origin.

"Exciting things are going to happen. We have all sorts of plans. We are going to put a white paper together with our vision of where we are going to take the Warriors."

Watson and Glenn have several business interests together in oil and gas, property and thoroughbred horses and the idea for a partnership in the Warriors came over a conversation over a few drinks in London about a year ago. About a month ago talks became more serious and an agreement was quickly reached.

It is an ever-changing environment they now work in with a commission looking into virtually all aspects of Australian rugby league, including the NRL. The salary cap, which presently stands at A$.4 million is likely to increase to about $5 million next year and could jump to as much as $8 million in the next few years. The new television deal will have a big bearing on this.

Regardless, the pair want to further emphasise the New Zealandness of the Warriors in their pursuit of a first NRL title.

"This club is about developing New Zealand players," said Watson, whose fortune is estimated to about $200 million. "We have bought one Australian player in the off-season [in hooker Nathan Friend].

"We don't need to buy journeyman Australian players. There's nothing wrong with the Aussies we have but I have always said I would like this to be a New Zealand team and we are getting closer and closer. The juniors have made a big difference and that investment has paid off and will continue to pay off.

"We both see the Warriors investment as an investment to accelerate the amount of money we have been spending which in the last four or five years is over $5 million developing the Junior Warriors. We will at least double that over the next four or five years to build the franchise so we have ongoing success at a senior level. The opportunities are significant and I'm very pleased to have Owen join me. We have always been in a strong financial state, but more so now with a partner like this on board."

- APNZ

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