The speculation over the future of Harlequins RL following the acquisition of Wigan Warriors by chairman and majority shareholder Ian Lenagan was resolved yesterday at a press conference at The Stoop. Lenagan will step down from his day to day responsibilities for the club in early December, and will then be given two years by the RFL to reduce his shareholding below 25%.
Lenagan has ruled out a fire sale, claiming that any new investors must have the best interests of the club at heart, he has also committed to a £600,000 investment per season to the club whilst he remains the majority owner. Rumours circulate that potential new investors in the club are already in discussion with Lenagan, although there is speculation that his shareholding may be spread across more than one investor who would then join the club’s other main shareholder, former chairman David Hughes. It has however been made clear that the club is in a far stronger financial position than it was two years ago when Lenagan took over, being debt free and with the final year of an initial three year partnership with Harlequins RU still to run.
The new management structure at the press conference sees fomer London Broncos director Keith Hogg take over as chairman, with South London Storm chairman Paul Brown taking the hotseat as chief executive. Hogg, Group Sales Director of giant brewing company Scottish & Newcastle, is a long term supporter and advisor to the club and will provide much needed continuity. Business consultant Brown is a prominent figure in London rugby league community, well respected for his work for the RFL as a consultant on various development programmes and his success in building South London Storm into the capital’s top amateur club.
Fans will feel much more confident now that a clearer idea of how the club will operate post-Lenagan has been outlined, although there remains the possibility that any new investors may choose to shake-up the management structure again. The committed investment from Lenagan should help the club remain competitive in the interim, and hopefully extend its current partnership with the rugby union outfit. There will also be renewed hope that the arrival of a senior management team with such strong experience in sales and marketing will address some of the long identified weaknesses in the club's attempts to establish a greater presence in the highly competitive London sporting market.
The press release is here.