There must be something wrong with me because I think New Zealand Rugby should bite the hand off Silver Lake's offer of $465 million for a 10-15 per cent stake in NZR's commercial rights.
World rugby has been clobbered by Covid-19, with huge loss of revenues. The game's financial model was flawed even before Covid, with most of the power and wealth in the northern hemisphere and sod-all in the south.
NZR and others felt the proposed world rugby championship and a global calendar would help the south's financial woes. That idea fell victim to a power play in the north, their attention also grabbed by the prospect of another private equity investor, CVC, pouring vast millions into a similar deal to Silver Lake's – buying about 15 per cent of the Six Nations' commercial rights.
Scotland and Ireland also didn't like the promotion-relegation aspects of the world rugby championship, voting it down – a resounding victory for self-interest over the good of the game.
The lost election of Agustin Pichot as World Rugby chairman kept power in northern hands – with the potential of CVC's big-money offer always in the background. The Six Nations unions are said to each be reaping truckloads of money for the CVC deal and, if you were Scotland, what would you rather have: untold millions, or promotion-relegation? Ireland's rugby union recently announced a financial deficit of $60m. It's not even a difficult decision for them.
So the south is faced with an even more powerful and wealthy north, at a time of dwindling public interest here and with the grassroots of the game badly damaged.
CVC already have a minority stake in the north's Premiership Rugby (27 per cent) and the Pro14 (28 per cent). Let's not mince words – these guys and Silver Lake want one thing: they buy a business or take a stake in it, extract as much revenue as possible, before selling the business or stake for as much profit as can be gained.
There's not a lot in there about the good of the game – and the handwringing in the media was almost instantaneous after Liam Napier's report about Silver Lake wooing NZR.
There are valid concerns. No one knows how much influence muscular partners like Silver Lake will have, even if it is just in NZR's commercial arm. Revenue tends to have a large say in the direction of any organisation. We have no idea whether Silver Lake will have any interest in reviving the grassroots of the game in New Zealand – or whether they just want to polish the shiny, elite bits.
Private equity investors don't have a perfect record when it comes to investment in sport. CVC did not endear themselves as owners of Formula 1 in 2006-2017, accused of "raping the sport"; Bob Fernley of Force India said: "All their actions have been taken to extract as much money from the sport as possible and put as little in as possible."
According to the Guardian, CVC paid £1.4b for its majority stake in F1, making an estimated £3.5b over the next decade and pulling every last cent out of new deals, including taking F1 from free-to-air TV to a pay-per-view deal worth £600m. When they sold, F1 was worth £8b, but global TV ratings had slipped. Critics said they took short-term gain but neglected the sport's future; F1 didn't make a profit again until 2019.
CVC had a controlling stake in F1; Silver Lake will be minority shareholders in NZR, although likely to have a big voice in the separate body to be set up to run NZR's commercial interests.
It will be vital that NZR use the funds to address urgent issues like provincial rugby, barely surviving club rugby and loss of interest by young people. These are former central pillars of the New Zealand game, fostering players from outside elite channels; they shape attitudes, family and generational followings and a large part of the game's social and community fabric.
That will be a big test of NZR management skill and strength; a bottom-up strategy is a long way from the top-down, elite structure operated to this point. It will have to be mastered even as Silver Lake aim their marketing nous at overseas markets.
So should NZR take the money? They have little choice. The south is increasingly alone, Covid-19 has shown how fragile the current financial foundations of the game are, and professional rugby has left wounds that need attention before gangrene sets in.
Someone once said the inherent vice of capitalism was unequal blessings, while the inherent virtue of socialism was equal misery. Okay, this isn't politics, but the fact is the New Zealand game has unequal blessings at present and needs attention before misery is applied more equally.
That's where NZR's focus must be. News of Silver Lake's interest was greeted with cries that "the soul of the game" could be under threat. It already was. The influx of a great deal of money, and the promise of more, will be a boon – but only if the board and executive suite of the NZR remembers their roots.