The New Zealand Herald
Win streak may encourage Watson to retain Warriors
Temptation to stay on may be great for club owner after six seasons of struggle
The Warriors ownership saga is drawing closer to its conclusion but there may still be a few twists and turns with no guarantees that owner Eric Watson will sell the club.
Watson is due to make some critical decisions this week around whether he wants to sell to Hawaiian businessman Richard Fale’s Tongan-United States group, or the Auckland Rugby League, or hang on to it himself
Watson is reportedly seeking $24 million from Fale’s consortium and the ARL are understood to have submitted a cash offer of $20 million, but neither party has yet managed to nail down a formal agreement.
Watson has previously stated that he is in no rush to sell and may retain ownership of the club he first purchased back in 2000, and it’s believed that could still be the case. The Herald understands that Watson has been so encouraged by the Warriors stunning early season form, he is rethinking whether he wants to offload the franchise during what is shaping as one of the most memorable seasons in the club’s history.
The frustrations of the past few difficult and demoralising years are quickly being forgotten as the side goes searching for their sixthstraight win in front of what is expected to be another bumper crowd for Saturday’s home game against Brisbane at Mt Smart.
With a well-balanced playing roster, the team is finally playing to their potential under coach Stephen Kearney, and the club is moving in the direction Watson long envisaged.
To cash in his chips now when the team appears on the cusp of breaking through to finals football for the first time since 2011, and just as the club is starting to reap the rewards of a lot of hard work done over the past three years, would be a tough call.
And if the team’s performances continue to trend upwards this season and next, the club’s value will climb, and he could potentially land a bigger pay day if he waited and looked to sell down the line.
However, Watson’s desire to stick around for the good times or greater profit could be outweighed by the urge or need to sell sooner rather than later, if Fale or the ARL can resolve lingering concerns around their respective bids in the coming days.
But after months of big talk from Fale, it is curious he has so far been unable to clinch a deal, despite apparently offering considerably more than the ARL.
Fale’s ability to deliver on his promises may ultimately determine whether the Tongan-US bid goes any further.
If he can’t, Watson may need to decide if he can afford to be charitable and sell the club to the ARL for less than he’d like, or convince them to up their offer.
If none of those scenarios appeal, he may decide to hold off altogether and keep his seat at the front of the Warriors rollercoaster.