The Crusaders and Hurricanes Super Rugby franchises will have new operators next year, with the Wellington side to be controlled by a group including Gareth Morgan.

The New Zealand Rugby Union today announced two groups, involving a mix of provincial unions and private investors, will manage the two teams after expressions of interest were sought for the licences a year ago.

The licence to manage the Hurricanes has been awarded to a Wellington group including Wellington Rugby, former Hurricanes directors Paul Collins and Liz Dawson, and Morgan's Welnix, the ownership group of the Wellington Phoenix football team.

The license has been awarded for a period of three years with a right of renewal for five more years.


The NZRU and a Crusaders region consortium have agreed in principle a licence arrangement to operate the Crusaders franchise and a final contract is expected to be signed within a month.

"These new arrangements are a step forward in terms of putting Super Rugby on a stronger financial footing to ensure the game at the professional level is better placed to prosper and deliver for its fans,'' said NZRU chief executive Steve Tew.

For the Blues, options were being considered both regionally and internationally and the franchise required more time to consolidate a final bid.

The NZRU will retain full ownership of the franchises, the contracting process and coaching appointments.

Investors will get to select, market and manage their team as well as lobby for players outside New Zealand if that works in tandem with the sport's governing body.

An initial expression of interest was also received for the Chiefs.

"However, it is disappointing the Chiefs were not able to finalise a bid," said Tew. "A new, commercially-focused board has been appointed by the NZRU to build on the great success the Chiefs enjoyed this year both on and off the field."