Highlanders look forward to bright future

Investec Super Rugby champions, the Highlanders, have embarked on a new era with local provincial unions and South Island private investors being granted a licence to operate the team until 2020.

A new season, a change of leadership.

This morning, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced that the private sector will be taking control of the Highlanders.  A decision that's been four years in the making.

The investors have a 77% stake in the franchise, a significantly higher proportion than what investors hold in NZ's four other teams.

The Highlanders' provincial unions retain a 13% share and the NZR will hold the remaining 10% for at least two years.

NZR retains ownership of the team's brands, while private investors will manage the team including the professional development and the marketing and promotion of matches.

The group will retain gate and sponsorship income and pay for the daily administration of the team.

Today's announcement completes the process begun in December 2011, with licences now awarded to operators of all five Investec Super Rugby teams.