New Zealand Rugby, the national governing body for rugby union, has appointed Stewart Mitchell as its new chairman, amid negotiations on proposed investment from US private equity firm Silver Lake.
Mitchell, a member of the NZR board since 2014, is said to have seen off a challenge from Bailey Mackey, the president of East Coast, and Shaun Nixon, the former North Harbour chairman and Blues director, in a tense board meeting in Auckland today.
Mitchell succeeds Brent Impey who is stepping down after seven years in the role.
Meanwhile, Farah Palmer, a former New Zealand women's international, has been installed as the first deputy chair of NZR.
Mitchell brings over 30 years of experience and was on the board of Crusaders and the chairman of Canterbury before joining the NZR board seven years ago.
His appointment comes amid a dispute over proposed investment into NZ Rugby by Silver Lake.
The proposal, which has the backing of NZR and the provincial unions, would see the firm acquire a 12.5 per cent stake in a new commercial subsidiary for NZ$387 million ($300 million), money which is considered necessary to support the growth of professional and grassroots rugby.
However, there is opposition from the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, which has instead proposed that investment company Forsyth Barr sells a 5 per cent stake via a public share that would raise between NZ$170 million and NZ$190 million.
Commenting on the issue, Mitchell told news website Stuff: "I think I will make my own judgements as we go forward. Having said that, I think we have pretty much all of NZ Rugby in agreement with the Silver Lake deal and what it can offer.
“But we will talk to these guys [NZRPA]. I will continue to talk to them and get involved. We will find an answer. We have to – for the whole of rugby.”
Palmer has been involved with NZR since 2016 when she became the first woman to sit on the board.
She brings experience in corporate rugby, current holding positions as chair of the NZ Maori Rugby Board and a board member of Sport NZ.
Palmer played for the Black Ferns, the national team, for a decade, and since 1999 has had a domestic competition named after her, the Farrah Palmer Cup.