Beleaguered WP president Zelt Marais in talks to secure new deal
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Cape Town – Western Province Rugby Football Union president Zelt Marais is in talks to secure a deal that will see the majority stakes in the union being sold.
On Thursday, Marais proposed the deal – which involves 90 percent stake in property and 74 percent in equity being sold – to clubs. This despite having rejected other deals that would have seen WP Rugby part with a much smaller stake.
Marais’ latest move comes while the SARU-recommended Staytus deal is still on the table.
Despite the fact that Staytus would have eased the immediate financial pressure on the union, Marais is opposed to the agreement to make Staytus the union's new benefactor, even though it would include a settlement arrangement with Flyt.
For Flyt to return the union’s title deeds and stop all damages claims, they want repayment of the R113m – plus interest there on – and a compulsory dividend of R32m after 42 months.
IOL Sport reported on the potential conflict of interest with Philip Burns, who serves as a board member and on the StratCo, and how he, through his company Freeworld Capital Holdings, put a proposal on the table to acquire a stake in the union’s assets. When asked whether Burns is involved in the current transaction that was proposed to clubs, Marais did not provide an answer.
The proposal by Burns dates back to 2019 and, since then, Marais has walked away from or rejected a number of deals including Investec, MVM, Flyt and now Staytus and another equity deal
IOL Sport approached Marais for comment on what the legal implications are of negotiating with other partners while the Staytus deal is unresolved. Marais did not respond to this or the question of why he failed to disclose to clubs who he is in communication with for the deal. He was also asked why the letter from SARU that he read out during Thursday’s meeting was not given to clubs.
It remains to be seen whether Marais is going to provide the clubs with all the details surrounding the deal in order for them to compare it to others that he rejected – especially seeing as the full details pertaining to certain moves have sometimes been withheld.
One example of this is the clauses he removed from documents that were sent to clubs in which he requests R250, 000, while he also failed to disclose the R125, 000 per month (to go towards his StratCo) he requested when he made the proposal to clubs to approve his War Room.
Marais also maintains that ‘no professional fees are currently being paid’ to his StratCo, and in earlier communication with IOL Sport, he states: “Should there be a charge for any specific specialised professional services, for example, due diligence and or complex legal advice then such charges would be charged at 50% of the normal rate and be deferred for a minimum of three months.”
This alone proves that his StratCo will lead to further costs for the union and add to what has already been spent on legal fees and advisors.
On Saturday, the effects of Marais’ reign was highlighted again, with the remaining independent directors of the board of Western Province Professional Rugby announcing their resignation after “increased hostility” from the president.
Independent directors Janine Myburgh, Melene Rossouw, Solly Moeng and Sabelo Mzanywa have all walked away, highlighting a “break of trust” between the board and the president.
This comes after Marais earlier this week suspended four more members of the executive committee. Reuben Riffel, Ronald Bantom, Anele Zita and Quinton van Rooyen were all handed suspensions, joining Mario Williams and Junaid Moerat as currently suspended executives as Marais continues to remove those who oppose him. Only Moneeb Levy and Nadeema Khan remain on the exco.
In the letter, the independent directors state that the suspension of the exco members motivated their resignations, while adding that Marais’ “secretive, dictatorial and relentlessly conspiratorial management style and conduct” has caused the “deteriorated environment within the management of Western Province Rugby”.