There are a variety of ownership structures across the Premiership clubs.
Northampton Saints are a PLC with one majority shareholder. Most of the other clubs are owned by private limited companies with one or two majority shareholders.
Sometimes there’s a chain of companies ending off-shore on the Channel Islands.
But we usually want to know the people behind the majority shares. Some, like Nigel Wray of Saracens, are high-profile figures in the sport. Others, like Derek Richardson of Wasps, keep out of the public eye.
Let’s take a look at all the owners across the top tier of the domestic game.
Current Owners Of England Premiership Rugby
|Bristol Bears||Stephen Lansdown|
|Exeter Chiefs||Club members||Tony Rowe|
|Gloucester||Martin St Quinton|
|Harlequins||Duncan Saville||Charles Jillings|
|Leicester Tigers||Tom Scott||Peter Tom|
|London Irish||Mick Crossan|
|Newcastle Falcons||Semore Kurdi|
|Northampton Saints||Keith Barwell|
|Sale Sharks||Simon Orange||Ged Mason|
|Saracens||Nigel Wray||Nick Leslau||Dominic Silvestre|
|Worcester Warriors||Colin Goldring||Jason Whittingham|
Some of these clubs have hundreds of small stakeholders that make up a small percentage of the overall ownership. These small shares are often held by club supporters going back to the amateur days.
The owners I’ve listed in the table have at least a 9% stake in their club.
Most of the Premiership clubs have changed owners several times since the start of professionalism. But there are a few owners who have been there for the long haul:
- Nigel Wray invested in Saracens in 1995. However, he didn’t always have the majority stake he currently holds.
- Keith Barwell bought his majority shareholding in Northampton Saints in 1996.
- Harlequins were purchased by business partners Duncan Saville and Charles Jillings in 1997.
Those three clubs have had a great deal more stability than the others.
There have been some rollercoaster years of ownership changes for many of the Premiership clubs.
Net Worth Of England Premiership Club Owners
I’ve seen several lists that purport to give the net worth of all the club owners – but they don’t give their sources. They could be pulling the figures out of thin air.
I’m confident that the five I list below have the highest net worth. This is because they’ve made the recent Rich Lists of national newspapers.
|Bristol Bears||Stephen Lansdown||1.9 B||Sunday Times|
|Saracens||Nigel Wray||315 M||Irish Independent|
|Sale Sharks||Ged Mason||170 M||Morson Website|
|Wasps||Derek Richardson||57 M||Irish Independent|
|London Irish||Mick Crossan||51.3 M||Irish Independent|
Who is the richest Premiership rugby club owner?
There’s no doubt that Stephen Lansdown of the Bristol Bears has the highest net worth of all the owners.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List of 2021, Lansdown is the 125th richest person in the United Kingdom. He is the co-founder of investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown.
Players As Owners
I wrote a series of articles on franchise owners in the MLR, the North American professional rugby competition.
One of the standout features across the MLR is the number of former U.S. international players amongst the owners.
For example, Kimball Kjar of the Utah Warriors earned 21 caps for the U.S. Eagles. Matt Hawkins, a minority owner of San Diego Legion, played for and coached the Eagles.
In contrast, there are no ex-internationals amongst the Premiership club owners. Of course, many played schoolboy rugby.
A few examples in the Premiership
When I look back through former owners, there are a few who didn’t make international level in the fifteen-a-side sport but played at the top end of club rugby.
For example, Peter Tom played lock for Leicester Tigers in the 1960s. He is now a minority owner of the club.
David Seymour was part of a consortium that purchased Worcester Warriors in 2018.
Seymour had a distinguished rugby career, playing for both Saracens and Sale. He was also capped for the England 7s team.
Failed ownership bid from a Springbok
There’s also the failed attempt in 2004 to establish a South African club in the Premiership.
The consortium behind this master plan included Bob Skinstad, the former Springbok captain. The RFU rejected their proposal.
Skinstad moved on and would later become a minority owner of the San Diego Legion in the MLR.
Successful ownership bid from a Springbok
In 2022, another former Springbok captain was part of a consortium that successfully bought a Premiership club.
Francois Pienaar famously lifted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. He is now one of the owners of Saracens RFC.
Check out our article on the ownership of Saracens to read more about how this club has changed hands several times.
Are There Overseas Owners In Premiership Rugby?
One of the features of English Premiership Football is the number of overseas owners of the soccer clubs.
There has been Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich of Chelsea F.C, the Glazers with Manchester United, and Manchester City being owned by Sheikh Mansour. And that’s just to name three in recent history.
There certainly isn’t the same amount of overseas money sloshing around Premiership Rugby!
It’s true that Tom Scott and Peter Tom of Leicester Tigers both live in the Channel Islands. But I don’t think that counts!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Mick Crossan of London Irish was born on the Emerald Isle. But he was born in London to two Irish parents, so we can’t count him as overseas either.
On the other hand, Derek Richardson of Wasps is a Dubliner. He’s also one of the club owners who likes to stay out of the limelight.
Detailed Articles On The Club Owners
You can read more in our in-depth articles on the owners of each of the Premiership rugby clubs (links below).
We cover the business and rugby backgrounds of majority and minority owners. And there are some juicy stories that may surprise you.
- Who Owns Bristol Bears?
- Who Owns Exeter Chiefs?
- Who owns Gloucester?
- Who owns Harlequins?
- Who owns Leicester Tigers?
- Who owns London Irish?
- Who owns Newcastle Falcons?
- Who owns Northampton Saints?
- Who owns Sale Sharks?
- Who owns Saracens?
- Who owns Wasps?
- Who owns Worcester Warriors?
Why Owners Need Deep Pockets
Many rugby clubs get high attendance, so you may be wondering why the owners tend to have deep pockets.
Check out our article on how much players earn in the English Premiership to get a better understanding. Sure, there’s a salary cap. But some of the marquee players are getting big money.