The Melbourne Rebels have been privatised in a deal with a locally-based sports management company, the Australian Rugby Union said on Friday.
The ARU and the Victorian Rugby Union confirmed the sale of Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Limited (MRRU) to Imperium Sports Management Pty Ltd (ISM).
ISM will acquire all shares in MRRU, the company that controls the Melbourne Rebels, from July 1, the ARU said without disclosing financial details.
The Rebels had been under the auspices of the ARU since majority owner Harold Mitchell handed control of the club to the governing body in 2013.
Part of the Imperium Group, ISM is led by Melbourne-based expatriate New Zealander Andrew Cox and former Melbourne Heart FC chairman Peter Sidwell.
“We know Melbourne is the perfect city to have its very own rugby team. There are over 125 years of rugby history in this (Victoria) state and the support for the Rebels in just five seasons is extremely encouraging,” Cox said in a statement.
“With the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016 (with the entry of teams from Japan and Argentina), we are looking forward to showcasing Melbourne across the world through new markets including Asia and South America.”
Melbourne Rebels CEO Peter Leahy has stepped aside, with Cox taking over as managing director effective immediately.
The privatisation announcement comes after a successful Super Rugby season for the Rebels who recorded seven wins, their most ever in a single term.