There is a wide variety of franchise owners in Major League Rugby. Many have strong rugby backgrounds, and some played or coached with the U.S. Eagles. There is also overseas representation in the ownership groups of some MLR clubs.
I’ve put together some tables and quick facts that give a good overview of the MLR owners.
Here is a summary of the majority and minority owners of MLR franchises.
|Franchise||Majority Owner(s)||Minority Owner||Minority Owner||Minority Owner||Minority Owner|
|Austin Gilgronis||Adam Gilchrist|
|Houston Sabercats||Mike Loya||Javier Loya|
|LA Giltinis||Adam Gilchrist|
|New England Free Jacks||Erik Anderson||Alex Magleby||Nate Ebner||Patrick Chung|
|NOLA Gold||Tim Falcon||Clermont Auvergne (FR)|
|Old Glory DC||Paul Sheehy & Chris Dunlavey||Scottish Rugby|
|Rugby ATL||Marcus Calloway||Scott Lawrence|
|Rugby United New York||Bolton Equities (NZ)||Pierre Arnald (FR)||Thomas Savare (FR)|
|San Diego Legion||Ryan Patterson & Darren Gardner||Bob Skinstad||Matt Hawkins|
|Seattle Seawolves||Adrian Balfour & Shane Skinner||20+ local investors||Canterbury Rugby Union (NZ)||Crusaders RFC (NZ)|
|Toronto Arrows||Bill Webb||Brian Burke||Duncan McNaughten||Kevin Reed||John Ferraro|
|Utah Warriors||Kimball Kjar||Luke Kjar||Wade Sherman||Others|
Several franchises have two principal owners. With other clubs, the majority owner funded the initial licensing fees and brought in more investors.
Overseas Ownership In Major League Rugby
Adam Gilchrist is an Australian entrepreneur who has majority ownership of an international gym franchise. Movie star Mark Wahlberg is one of the minority owners.
Gilchrist founded a sports investment company, Loyals Rugby, which is the vehicle that owns Austin Gilgronis and LA Giltinis. The linked articles delve further into Gilchrist’s background and the unusual team names.
New Zealand investment group, Bolton Equities, acquired 90% of Rugby United New York when they bought out the original founder James Kennedy. Frenchman Pierre Arnald retained the remaining 10%. Murry Bolton’s past record with Auckland Rugby makes an interesting read in the context of Bolton equities ownership of RUNY.
But that wasn’t the end of French involvement in RUNY. In 2021, Bolton Equities announced that French businessman Thomas Savare had purchased a minority stake in Rugby United New York. Savare was President of giant French club Stade Francais for six years.
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that my table shows Springbok Bob Skinstad as “UK”. This is because Skinstad’s minority ownership of San Diego Legion is through his investment group, which is based out of London.
Overseas rugby unions and clubs
Clermont Auvergne, one of the giant French professional clubs, has minority ownership in NOLA Gold. The historic French influence on New Orleans seems a natural fit, and the European club has already started establishing links beyond financial contributions.
The Scottish Rugby Football Union purchased a minority stake in Old Glory DC. I speculate in the linked article about what this may mean for the Washington franchise.
Seattle Seawolves have looked to New Zealand for equity and influence. Both Canterbury Union and the Crusaders RFC have purchased equity in the Seawolves. The linked article discusses how much they own (it may be less than you think).
Eagles Players And Coaches As MLR Owners
Six MLR franchises have a majority or minority owner with a background as player or coach (or both) with the U.S. Eagles.
Kimball Kjar, majority owner of the Utah Warriors, was an All-American Collegiate Player in 2001. His performances resulted in a first cap against Argentina that year. Kjar was capped 21 times for the Eagles.
Paul Sheehy is one of the two principal owners of Old Glory DC. The fullback went to the 1991 Rugby World Cup with the Eagles and started two matches.
Matt Hawkins is a co-founder and minority owner of San Diego Legion. Hawkins grew up playing schoolboy rugby in South Africa before moving to the U.S. and gaining citizenship. He didn’t just play for the Eagles, he also coached the national team.
Alex Magleby, co-owner of the New England Free Jacks, is another MLR investor who both played and coached at national level. Magleby played for the U.S. Sevens team over five years and got four caps for the fifteens side. Magleby went on to coach the sevens squad.
Scott Lawrence, minority owner of Rugby ATL, played with Todd Clever and Paul Emerick in the 2006 Churchill Cup. He went on to coach the Eagles U20s side for a five-year stint. He joined the senior coaching team as defense coach for another five years.
MLR Club Inaugural Seasons
Major League Rugby kicked off in 2018 with seven teams in the first season. MLR added more franchises in successive years. This table shows the inaugural seasons of each club.
* The team from Austin, Texas was named Austin Elite. It would be purchased and renamed as Austin Gilgronis.
** Glendale Raptors would subsequently withdraw from the league.
|Austin Gilgronis *||2018|
|Glendale Raptors **||2018|
|San Diego Legion||2018|
|Rugby United New York||2019|
|New England Free Jacks||2020|
|Old Glory DC||2020|
Detailed Articles On The MLR Franchise Owners
Check out our in-depth articles on these franchise owners. We cover the business and rugby backgrounds of majority and minority owners. And we throw in some juicy stories that you may not have heard before.
- Who owns Austin Gilgronis (and why the odd name?)
- Houston SaberCats ownership
- Who owns NOLA Gold?
- San Diego Legion owners
- Who owns Seattle Seawolves?
- Utah Warriors ownership
- Rugby United New York owners (past and present)
- Who owns Toronto Arrows?
- Ownership of New Englans Free Jacks
- Old Glory DC owners
- Who owns Rugby ATL?
- Who owns LA Giltinis (and why the odd name?)