Middletons acted in the first successful partial privatisation of a rugby league club in Australia — a move being examined closely by other clubs and sports as a way to bring in money while maintaining the involvement of traditional members.
The unusual arrangement will see the existing members of the Manly-Warringah Rugby Leagues Club maintain minority ownership while an “entity” of the Sydney property developer Max Delmege — a keen Manly supporter — will become a majority shareholder in the struggling side.
Partner David Morris and lawyer Andrew McNee headed the Middletons team.
Alec Christie, one of the partners also involved, said they had to engineer a unique restructure of the existing corporate arrangements of the club over the last six to 12 months.
“[It involved] a complete restructure of what was a very traditional football club,” he said, adding that these changes might become a model for the future development of rugby league clubs in Australia as well as other sports.
“Traditionally, [football clubs] are run by members and voted on by members. They have always struggled to be able to find money,” Christie said. The new arrangement would provide this all-important injection of cash while maintaining the involvement of the existing and future “mums and dads” members.
He compared this to the full privatisation common in the US National Football League where whole clubs are owned by one company or individual, who has complete control over the team’s direction.
By contrast, the existing members of Manly football club will still have a say in its management and there is no provision for Delmege to receive a return on his majority stake. He is content with seeing the money put towards getting the club back on its feet and having a greater say in how the team is run.
Christie said the restructure had attracted considerable interest from other rugby league clubs and at least three were rumoured to be considering introducing a similar structure.