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Corporate Raiders

Date

Noel Towell

While the actual Raiders NRL team has struggled financially, its parent company has flourished.

While the actual Raiders NRL team has struggled financially, its parent company has flourished. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

The Canberra Raiders have quietly been building a commercial property empire worth tens of millions of dollars as the NRL club's cashed-up parent company looks to end its dependence on pokies.

A dismal season on the field for the NRL operation last year was matched by below-par financial performance, slumping to a loss of more than $220,000 on revenues of almost $12 million, including nearly $2 million in cash and in-kind benefits from the ACT government.

But the Raiders' parent group, The Canberra District Rugby League Football Club Ltd, enjoyed cash-flows last year of almost $50 million and healthy profits of $3.6 million.

The Raiders empire's clubs and cash flows.

The Raiders empire's clubs and cash flows.

The club's controlling entities have established a property fund, the Canberra Raiders Trust and an associated trading vehicle, CRTC Limited, which was registered in mid-2011 and is now fully funded.

The trust is now worth more than $33 million and has already made substantial investments in a portfolio of office and retail projects.

The Queanbeyan Leagues Club, the financial engine room of the group, diverted more than $15 million last year into the new property group and still retains a healthy balance sheet.

Follow the money through the empire.

Follow the money through the empire.

The Canberra Raiders have previously refused to publicly disclose details of their financial performance, but documents lodged with corporate regulator ASIC show the NRL club recorded a $226,000 loss in 2010-2011 despite netting almost $12 million from TV money, gate receipts, merchandising, sponsorship and match-day sales.

The club's income also includes $1.4 million in annual ''appearance fees'' from the ACT government, which also provides payroll tax concessions worth $500,000 each year. The fortunes of the football club will be improved by the two-year sponsorship deal with Chinese technology giant Huawei worth $1.7 million completed in March.

Despite the bottom-line loss posted by the NRL club in 2010-2011, its parent outfit is in rude financial health.

The Canberra Times understands that two large interstate office investments have been acquired and the jewel in the crown of the property empire is the purchase of a Bunnings Warehouse site in the Sydney suburb of Seven Hills.

The Raiders group is easily the region's biggest operator of poker machines with more than 830 pokies in seven clubs across the ACT and Queanbeyan.

The Mawson Club, which recorded gaming profits of nearly $3 million on gambling revenue of nearly $5.3 million, also contributed $200,000 to The Canberra Raiders Trust last year.

March marked 10 years since The Canberra District Rugby League Football Club Ltd took full control of the Raiders back from News Limited with the club hemorrhaging up to $200,000 a month.

But leagues club president John McIntyre told The Canberra Times that the days of struggle were over.

''[Melbourne Storm coach] Craig Bellamy said that the Raiders were a team under pressure, well I don't know where he got that from,'' Mr McIntyre said. ''If there is pressure, it's on the board and the management not to take its eye off the ball.''

Mr McIntyre said that he and his colleagues were pleased with their commercial real estate acquisitions, some of which were yielding annual returns of up to 8 per cent. But no property had been bought in the ACT.

''It has been all interstate but that's not to say that we haven't looked at opportunities here,'' he said.

Mr McIntyre said the diversification strategy was vital to ensure that the group could guarantee the future of the Raiders' NRL side and the financial security of the game's junior and senior leagues in the region.

''We need to diversify if we are going to guarantee the game of rugby league, and that's not just the Raiders,'' he said.

9 comments so far

  • There is something disconcerting about a profitable commercial enterprise that received grants and payroll tax concessions that also runs very profitable poker machine casinos. What percentage of this revenue takes food out of children's mouths or clothes off their backs? The books should declare revenue estimates from problem gamblers. Are the Raiders part of any lobby group against poker machine law reform? If there are they should declare this and should no longer receive ACT Government subsidy.

    Commenter
    Jack
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    May 03, 2012, 8:42AM
    • Hmm, if the Raiders are so cashed up why cant they employ someone good at marketing? Raiders crowds have been poor for far too long.

      And why dont the Raiders do something about that jersey - noone wears Raiders stuff around town because it looks terrible.

      (Admittedly I probably wouldnt wear it, Im still embarassed by the dog sex incident of a few yrs back)

      Commenter
      jg
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 8:57AM
      • lemme get this straight ....

        the government is giving these boofheads tax dollars and tax concessions to build a property and gambling empire, playing homoerotic-wrestleball is a secondary consideration?

        this town and its bizarre government officially no longer surprise me.

        Commenter
        Bec
        Date and time
        May 03, 2012, 9:21AM
        • Hey Bec, before you start calling them boofheads why don't you look at what they do for the community, something this article doesn't mention. The Raiders groul have been donating money into junior sports programs for years including support for Rugby Union in Queanbeyan. Sid if you read the article they are trying to diversify so they don't have to rely on gambling. Good on the Raiders I hope they succeed.

          Commenter
          Raiders Dynasty
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          May 03, 2012, 7:07PM
      • Sounds like business is booming. Shame about the team though..

        Commenter
        LukeK
        Date and time
        May 03, 2012, 9:25AM
        • Maybe a little more on-field focus, no good just being successful off the field, would do more for the marketing than a better jersey.

          Commenter
          Canburnian
          Date and time
          May 03, 2012, 9:31AM
          • Perhaps McIntyre should stick to the clubs and property management side of things and have someone else involved in the appointment of coaching staff. It's seems obvious where his strength lies.

            Commenter
            Mull it over
            Date and time
            May 03, 2012, 11:12AM
            • This actually sounds like a very smart and responsible strategy despite some of the above comments. This has been 10 years in the making with the parent company registered in 2011, considering the time it takes these initiatives to get going that would mean they started this about the time the pokies reform came on the agenda. From what I read out of this, the Raiders are utilising the benefits they have now (pokies, government etc) and diversifying their income so they don't have to rely on the pokies or government in the future. I actually think they are being more socially responsible by ensuring they don't need to rely on problem gamblers to fund their operations in the future. I am not sure that any other club (NRL or Licensed Club) is being this proactive; they all seem to me more interested in fighting the pokies reform than protecting themselves from it!

              Now let's take some of those big $$$ and buy ourselves a real team!!!!

              Commenter
              AH
              Date and time
              May 03, 2012, 11:43AM
              • So the poker machine revenue is going to support a business property venture, I thought the clubs money goes back into the community.
                Are these revenue & profits normal for all clubs? If so how dare they object to poker machine reform when the profits are near 50% of revenue & they invest in out of town real estate, all part of the community spirit.
                Totally appalled, Wilkie needs to make these figures public & try again to get his reform through.

                Commenter
                Sid
                Date and time
                May 03, 2012, 12:35PM

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