US private equity group Silver Lake is close to finally concluding an investment deal with New Zealand Rugby, the governing body for rugby union in the country, it has been reported.

The two parties are on the brink of finalizing a deal that would see Silver Lake acquire a minority shareholding in a new commercial holding company after many months of negotiations, according to Sky News.

The stake is understood to be smaller than the 15% envisaged when the deal was initially mooted just over a year ago.

The deal was held up by an unwillingness by the national team players to sign off on it as it ultimately required approval from New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA).

It is now believed that the NZRPA is prepared to accept the commercial agreement under fresh terms.

The players were initially against the idea due to concerns that the sport could become over-commercialized and the national team forced to play too many matches.

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A deal, which would be likely to value the All Blacks' commercial rights at more than NZ$3 billion ($2 billion), could be announced as soon as this month.

Silver Lake had agreed to a NZ$387.5 million deal with NZR early last year to acquire a 12.5% stake in the new commercial subsidiary.

However, the private equity company’s share in the business could reportedly now be as little as 5% in a revised deal with NZRPA on board.

The US firm is keen to broaden its sports portfolio and recently concluded a A$130 million ($92.7 million) deal to acquire a 33.3% stake in the A-Leagues, Australia’s club soccer competitions.

Mark Robinson, the NZR chief executive, was a strong advocate for the investment deal after the governing body posted a loss of NZ$34.6 million in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Peter Scrimgeour, senior analyst at GlobalData, commented: “New Zealand Rugby and its member unions regularly lose money, making it increasingly difficult to retain its elite talent each year from European and Japanese clubs.

“Like many other sports, NZR has seen its finances hit by the pandemic, with its once healthy cash reserves slashed. Therefore, if NZR does agree to sell a minority stake to Silver Lake, the investment would inject much-needed cash into the game, allowing the national body to retain its best players, while the provincial unions could use the funds to develop the amateur game.”