After 16 years under Scottish businessman Brian Kennedy’s control, the Sale Sharks club has been acquired by Manchester-based private equity firm CorpAcq Ltd., controlled by Simon Orange.
Sale Sharks are one of the leading professional Rugby Union clubs in Europe and the pride of the North West. Historically based in the Manchester suburb of Sale, but now playing at AJ Bell Stadium, the Sharks compete in the Aviva Premiership, having played in England’s top flight since 1994.
Since the game of Rugby Union turned professional in the mid 1990s, the Sharks have arguably been an archetypal success story, rising from the lower ranks to become a multiple trophy winner.
CorpAcq aims to build on Sale’s success in the Premiership and is targeting a top spot, it says. The firm plans to invest into the senior squad, as well as the academy, and the commercial team.
“The last 16 years at the helm of this great club has been a great privilege. We have had many wonderful moments’ particularly winning two European trophies and The Premiership championship for the first time in the club’s history,” said Brian Kennedy.
“Sale have performed resiliently over the past 16 years under the ownership of Brian Kennedy and now we believe we can build on this success and take Sale Sharks to another level. With our planned investment I think we can close the gap between Sale Sharks and the teams above us,” said Simon Orange.
“We intend to establish Manchester as a Premiership rugby region. The academy is one of the best in the Premiership with 12 of our junior players involved with England at various age groups and three senior players, originally from our academy, called up to the full England training squad, and we plan further investment in order to strengthen it. Sale also have an award winning Community Service Program which we also intend to grow” he added. “I hope rugby fans from the region will support Sale Sharks and help us to build a dominant Northern Powerhouse both on and off the field.”
CorpAcq’s stated focus is to acquire successful companies with existing quality management teams in place who can continue to run the businesses, to unlock business potential with management support and financing, and to increase return for all stakeholders. CorpAcq was formed in 2006 and currently holds a portfolio of 14 different businesses, with a combined turnover of over £150 million, it says.
”From the discussions I have had with Simon, I believe Sale Sharks has a very bright future,’ said Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond. “I am excited to be involved in the next steps for Sale as a team and a club. At a time when, for many reasons, Manchester and the North West is talked about, securing Premiership rugby in the region is really important for the national game. We want to grow this club and coming off the back of a good season is a great time to do it.”
“I am sure all the players, coaches, sponsors and fans will want to wish Brian Kennedy and Ian Blackhurst well and thank them for their continued support during the last 16 years of ownership,” he added.
As one of the leading sides in Europe, the Sharks boast a star-studded squad that includes internationals from all over the world. The Sale colors have also been worn in the past by world stars such as Jason Robinson, Fran Cotton, Steve Smith, Steve Hanley, Bryan Redpath, Danny Cipriani, Dan Braid, Mark Cueto, Luke McAlister, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Sebastien Chabal.
Sale Football Club, founded in 1861, played at various grounds in the Borough until settling at their present Heywood Road ground in 1905. The club proudly maintained an increasingly higher profile through the amateur years, providing a stream of players to county rugby in the days before League fixtures, when the County Championship had a higher profile than it does now.