By VANESSA BIDOIS and JAMES GARDINER



The Tainui tribe's controversial investment in the Auckland Warriors may soon be over.



Amid claims of a cashflow crisis, the Waikato-based tribe is considering selling parts of one of its major corporate entities, MDC Investment Holdings Ltd.



The most high-profile of the MDC investments, a two-thirds share of the Vodafone Warriors rugby league franchise, is apparently not part of the deal at this stage.

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That is despite a claim yesterday by the would-be buyer, former Tainui executive Jeff Green, that he and his partners intended buying MDC (Maori Development Corporation) in its entirety for $30 million.



Mr Green later tried to deny his comments, then said they were tongue-in-cheek.



However, he acknowledged there was a "confidential" purchase proposal of some kind.



MDC Investments owns 66.6 per cent of Rugby League People Ltd; Graham Lowe and Malcolm Boyle own the other third. RLP in turn owns the Warriors.



Tainui's legal adviser, Shane Solomon, confirmed there was a proposal involving Mr Green and others in MDC's management team to purchase some of the assets in the MDC portfolio.



Mr Solomon said they did not include the Warriors - although "we would sell at the right price" - or the 100 per cent stake in Puka Park Resort Lodge at Pauanui.



Tainui has spent close to $5 million on its stake in the Warriors, which originally cost about $3.25 million.



More than $1 million had to be written off due to restructuring of the club, including paying out some players' contracts.



MDC Investments also owns the electronic sales equipment maker Info-Touch Technologies Ltd (50 per cent), educational publisher The Learning Web Ltd (45 per cent), telephone toll call provider Business Interlink NZ Ltd (30 per cent), television company West Media Services NZ Ltd (25 per cent) and packaging manufacturer Insul-Box Group.



Tainui has always regarded MDC as an investor in high-risk high-return projects.



In its annual report in September, Tainui Group Holdings Ltd noted that the profit contribution from MDC over the next year was expected to be "minimal, but in line with the objective of achieving 20 per cent returns over a three-year period."



Mr Solomon confirmed that the tribe was on the verge of a major restructuring of its assets and investments that would see its chief treaty settlements negotiator, Sir Robert Mahuta, who has suffered from ill health in recent years, "taking more of a forward role."



Critics of Tainui, including the former Mauri Pacific MP for Te Tai Hauauru, Tukoroirangi Morgan, have suggested that Sir Robert should step aside.



According to Mr Morgan there have been several recent "coup" attempts to force the issue and these may have been behind Tainui's decision not to renew Mr Green's contract as special projects manager.



Huntly GP David Gilgen, another who has been outspoken about Tainui's investments, said that provided any sales gave a reasonable return they would be a good idea "because they do need the money at the moment."