Rugby balls-to-scrum machines speciality retailer Rhino is looking to sell a stake in the fast-growing business to rich sports fans ahead of a possible stock-market flota- tion by 2016.
The company, which is chaired by former Aviva boss Andrew Moss, supplied training equipment for the British and Irish Lions’ successful tour Down Under earlier this year.
Warren Gatland’s team beat the Wallabies 2-1, the Lions’ first series win since 1997 when they defeated South Africa.
Rhino has also moved into clothing, synthetic grass, skincare products and into areas such as the US and Asia, boosting group revenue from £750,000 in 2006 to £5m last year.
Reg Clark, the group’s chief executive, said: “Rhino as a brand has been expanding substantially on a global basis in recent years and we are regularly raising money to fund that growth.
“In the absence of meaningful support from the banks, we have tended to issue equity and debt and look to high-net-worth rugby fans as our typical investors.
“There are two possible exits for current shareholders – either be bought by a trade buyer or the flotation route.
“We are two or three years away from the latter and in the meantime we’ll continue to source funding from individual investors, mostly through our contacts and there are no networks like rugby networks”.
Among the company’s investors are England’s world Cup-winning rugby captain Martin Johnson and Mr Moss, who left Aviva last year after a pay rebellion at the insurer’s annual meeting. He ran the FTSE 100 group for five years but resigned last May.
Mr Clark said Mr Moss’s experience in the City has been invaluable to Rhino since he joined the business last September. He added: “Andrew and I are close friends from university days.
“As an investor and non-executive chairman he brings a great deal of expertise and perspective to Rhino and clearly understands the investment potential of rugby as a sport and a business.”