The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) have confirmed the sale of the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Limited (MRRU) to Imperium Sports Management Pty Ltd (ISM).
ISM will acquire all shares in the MRRU, the company that controls the Melbourne Rebels, from 1 July, 2015.
As part of the Imperium Group, ISM is led by local Melbourne businessman Andrew Cox and former Melbourne Heart Chairman Peter Sidwell. Both Cox and Sidwell bring a unique combination of business and sports administration experience, and have a proven track record of successful transformation of under-performing businesses and brand management.
Speaking on behalf of ISM, Cox said, "We know Melbourne is the perfect city to have its very own rugby team. There are over 125 years of rugby history in this state and the support for the Rebels in just five seasons is extremely encouraging.
“We’re excited about the opportunity we have to re-engage with the Victorian Rugby community and form a deeper connection with our fans by delivering better Rugby experiences at AAMI Park.
“With the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016, we are looking forward to showcasing Melbourne across the world through new markets including Asia and South America.
ARU CEO Bill Pulver said: “Throughout the negotiations with the Imperium Group, we have been most impressed with both Andrew Cox and Peter Sidwell and their vision for the growth of Rugby in Victoria.
“We, along with the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU), are pleased that the Rebels’ new owners share the values of the ARU and the Foundation Rebels Shareholders, and will look to continue to strengthen the development of Rugby in Victoria in partnership with the VRU.”
President of the VRU Tim North added: “As a Rugby community we are very fortunate that the new owners of the Rebels are passionate about the VRU’s growth strategies and local pathways.
“Under the sale agreement, the Melbourne Rebels and VRU will continue to operate as separate businesses, although remaining strongly linked to continue to drive the local game for men and women in Club Rugby, Victorian Schools Rugby Union (VSRU) and Rugby Sevens.”
As a result of the transaction, Melbourne Rebels CEO Peter Leahy has stepped aside with Cox assuming the Managing Director position effective immediately.
MRRU Chairman Jonathan Ling will continue to chair the Melbourne Rebels Advisory Board, along with a number of current MRRU directors.
The announcement comes after an historic year for the Rebels, having recorded more wins in a single season (seven) than ever before.
A number of ‘firsts’ for the Rebels has been achieved along the way, including a first ever overseas victory against the seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders in Round One, and five Rebels players have been selected in the preliminary Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship in July.