Saracens sell majority stake to investment consortium

London (AFP) –


English rugby giants Saracens announced Saturday they had agreed a takeover deal with a consortium of investors including former South Africa captain Francois Pienaar.

Saracens said the new owners would invest £32 million ($43 million) in the club, which will be used to redevelop their north London stadium, support women's sport and create a high-performance training centre.

Nigel Wray, who has backed the club financially since 1995 and recruited Pienaar as a player, said he would retain "a significant minority shareholding, albeit a passive one".

Takeover consortium leader Dominic Silvester, chief executive of insurance firm Enstar Group, said the investment was a long-term commitment to maintain the Premiership club's place "at the top of the game".

"It is our privilege to take Saracens onto a new chapter and we intend to be every bit as ambitious and pioneering as Nigel (Wray, Saracens outgoing owner)," said Silvester.

Under Wray, Saracens were crowned European champions three times in four years between 2016 and 2019 and have lifted the English Premiership trophy five times since 2011.

They were relegated at the end of the 2019/20 season for repeated breaches of the Premiership's salary cap but retained a clutch of stars including England internationals Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Mako and Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly and immediately gained promotion from the second tier.

"I am thrilled to hand over control to the consortium which comprises people I know well and who understand the culture we've been able to create over more than 20 years," Wray said.

His daughter, Lucy Wray, will remain as chief executive.

Pienaar, 54, who led South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory in 1995, joined Saracens the following year and subsequently coached the club.