South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson has hailed Russell Crowe’s contribution to the NRL club but said the Rabbitohs would cope without the Hollywood superstar.
Crowe is selling his 37.5 per cent share in the club citing family reasons following his recent marriage split.
The Oscar-winning actor bought 75 per cent of the club with Sydney businessman Peter Holmes a Court in 2006 and Richardson credited him with helping transform Souths from a laughing stock to a profit-making company with a premiership-contending team.
“This club wouldn’t be here without Russell Crowe’s involvement,” Richardson said at a packed media conference at Redfern Oval on Monday.
“He got involved simply for the reason of trying to make it successful again.
“He bought money into this club, ideas, thoughts and all sorts of things.”
Richardson said before the arrival of Crowe and Holmes a Court, wages were regularly not paid and the club was at the foot of the NRL ladder.
“Today, we wouldn’t be here having this conference with all that membership, have that profit or sit here at this magnificent ground, which was a hell-hole,” he said.
“He’ll be remembered, when we win our 21st premiership, as the man who brought us back. What he has done for this club has been enormous and his legacy will be remembered forever.”
After initially playing a major role in securing sponsors and attracting players, Richardson said Crowe had now taken a back seat – making it a sensible time to withdraw.
“I have only seen Russell about three times this year as he has been busy with work,” he said.
“This year we have made a six-figure profit and that will become a seven-figure profit next year.
“Russell never set out to make money, he set out to help make the club the great club it once was.
“He feels never before has there been a better time for him to be able to make that decision.”
Souths chairman Nick Pappas said it was Crowe’s responsibility to sell his shares and that the club’s members would have the option to match any future offer.
Under the club’s constitution, members can veto any bid for shares, which would prevent the club from being moved away from Sydney by a prospective buyer.
“The members’ rights are paramount and any sale process puts them first,” Pappas said.
“All in all, our club is well positioned for the future and the envy of the code at the moment.
“Our investors for all their commitment haven’t been required to inject one cent since May 2008.
“The club has been living off it’s own steam and has no leagues club backing. It’s a pretty extraordinary achievement.”
Former club patriarch George Piggins said on Sunday that Crowe’s sale could see the club be relocated by a future owner, a claim that was hosed down by Richardson.
“I guarantee it, iron-clad – it’s not even a question. If it happened, Shane Richardson wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Pappas said Holmes a Court, who’s now based in Europe, was still to decide if he would also sell his share of the club.