English rugby union’s leading clubs will hold a special meeting at a west London hotel on Tuesday to decide whether to accept a £275m takeover offer for the Premiership from a private equity firm.
The proposed deal from CVC Capital Partners, former owners of F1, for 51% of the league values the competition at more than half a billion pounds – but their initial offer is set to fail.
BBC Sport understands Bath’s owner Bruce Craig believes the Premiership is worth around £800m, and will therefore oppose the proposal on the basis it drastically undervalues the league.
He is also known to be concerned about relinquishing commercial control, and by the motives of CVC, whose pursuit of profit and lack of investment in F1 was criticised during their decade-long ownership of the motorsport series, which they sold for £8bn last year.
The deal is favoured by most of the clubs because it would mean a much-needed £17m windfall for each, writing off the financial losses that almost all have suffered in recent years as increasing revenues have been offset by player-wage inflation.
However, with a unanimous decision needed, the deal for 51% of the league is almost certain to be blocked.
Premiership chief executive Mark McCafferty has stated that the CVC approach is one of “several” options on the table.
The league – currently owned by the 12 top-flight clubs plus Championship side London Irish – may decide to ask CVC to improve its offer, consider selling a smaller stake to an alternative investor, or borrow money instead, as it seeks a means of raising capital.
A suggestion that the Rugby Football Union could launch a counter-offer and form a new unified body with the Premiership is not seen as likely by the clubs.