THEY will have a new major sponsor on their jerseys next season, but will the Knights have a new owner?
Newcastle officials will formally announce on Thursday that health fund nib will be their naming-rights partner for their next three seasons, in a deal worth around $1 million a year. Whether or not the Knights can make the transition from NRL control to private ownership before their 2017 campaign kicks off remains to be seen.
The governing body launched the sale process two months ago, appointing Tony Garrett, the head of mergers and acquisitions at Deloitte Australia, to broker a transaction they hope will be completed by Christmas.
Since then, all parties have been bound by confidentiality agreements, so whatever progress has been made behind closed doors appears a closely guarded secret.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said on Wednesday he was leaving such negotiations to the NRL, but he understood that “a number of interested parties” were under consideration.
“I guess as we start to enter into November and get closer to that December timeline, they’ll certainly have a better indication of whether a sale is imminent or not,’’ he said.
Gidley said it was “fantastic news for the club” that nib, which has been a corporate supporter since the Knights’ 1988 foundation season, had taken over as major sponsor, replacing Newpave.
“We’re extremely proud to have a partner like nib, who have been with us since the start, and particularly given that next year will be our 30th year,’’ Gidley said.
“It’s wonderful recognition for the loyalty and support we’ve received from a fellow organisation that was born and bred in Newcastle, and is now competing on a global scale.’’
Asked if Newpave, Newcastle’s major sponsor for the past two seasons, would remain involved in some capacity, Gidley said that was an option being discussed.
Knights skipper Trent Hodkinson said it was reassuring that, after a disappointing 2016 season in which Newcastle collected a second consecutive wooden spoon, the club was still able to attract corporate support.
“It’s great news for the club,’’ Hodkinson said.
“nib have been a massive part of Newcastle and the region for a long time now, and we’re very proud to have them as a sponsor.’’
The Knights will kick off their 2017 pre-season next week.