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American biotech tycoon Hoyoung Huh part of Dragons takeover

American biotech tycoon Hoyoung Huh is part of a three-strong consortium that has taken over Dragons.

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur owns a third of the Welsh region following the completion of a deal to buy the club from the Welsh Rugby union (WRU).

Chairman David Buttress and former Cardiff and Pontypool scrum-half David Wright are also co-owners.

Wright said: "It's fantastic that an American businessman wants to invest in Welsh rugby and it's great for Gwent."

Huh is also part-owner of the Miami Marlins baseball team as well as Californian biopharmaceutical company Peak Bio Inc.

He has become the latest American investor in UK sport, even if Newport-based Dragons may not appear the obvious choice.

Wright said: "We're seeing a lot of Americans investing in UK sport, Ryan Reynolds has done a lot for Wales after taking over Wrexham football.

"Hoyoung loves all sport and was keen for the opportunity to build something.

"At the time he [Huh] was looking at buying a football club, but one of his associates is a big Dragons fan and persuaded him this was a really good thing to do.

"We can tap into his knowledge of building successful sporting franchises, especially commercially."

Dragons were the only region to be owned by the WRU and a return to private ownership had been a condition of the new six-year deal between the governing body and all four regions in March.

A heads of terms agreement was agreed in June, but has only now been signed.

Dragons RFC will take back ownership of their Rodney Parade home in the centre of Newport with aims to upgrade the site.

"We believe there is a strong future for professional rugby in the region," said Machen-born businessman Wright, who played against the All Blacks for Pontypool in 1989.

"We're committed to building the culture at the club around winning, which hasn't always been the case with the Dragons in recent seasons.

"Success breeds success and, as it grows, we will have money to re-invest into the club and the squad with new players.

"In the next three to five years we see the Dragons, certainly competing in the top European competition, but also challenging in the top echelons of the URC.

"I've never wanted to be at the bottom end of anything, when I played rugby or in business. That's the culture we want at this club."

Sustainable success

However, the financial perils of professional rugby are clear and the recent fates of leading English clubs Wasps, Worcester Warriors and London Irish are not lost on the investors.

Dragons - like their counterparts Cardiff, Scarlets and Ospreys - have continued to be dogged by financial issues with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic having a major impact on cashflow.

The six-year deal agreed by the Professional Rugby Board, which represents all four regions and the WRU, will see each region's funding reduced by almost £2m.

Budgets will be slashed to £5.2m for 2023-24 season and reducing further to £4.5m the following season as the game in Wales looks to find a sound financial footing.

Dragons have seen themselves as the poor relations when it comes to funding and Wright says the group will use their global contacts to bring in more investment, but insists sustainability is vital.

"I'm sure there are those who would say the previous funding model didn't work well for Dragons, but the new agreement gives us parity in funding in two years' time, which helps for planning," said Wright.

"We've walked into this with our eyes wide open. We know how hard it is to succeed in sport and have seen the casualties in England over the last year, so sustainability is vital.

"We're not going to build up huge debt and we're not investing in this just to go bust in a couple of years. You have to balance the books, it's as simple as that.

"But independence allows us to look after our own future without any shackles and drive for the success we all want."

League Two football club Newport County will continue playing at Rodney Parade while second-tier Newport RFC, who moved out of the venue clubhouse when the WRU took over in 2017, will play some of their games elsewhere in the city.