Cricket: US fund and Indian tycoon bid more than US$1.6 billion for new IPL teams

DUBAI (AFP, REUTERS) – A controversial US capital venture fund and an Indian tycoon on Monday (Oct 25) bid more than US$1.6 billion (S$2.16 billion) between them to set up two new teams in the Indian Premier League, the world’s richest cricket tournament.

Sanjiv Goenka, whose RPSG conglomerate includes power, music and plantation concerns, offered more than US$930 million at an auction in Dubai to set up a team in the Indian city of Lucknow, the IPL said.

CVC Capital partners promised more than US$690 million to set up a team in Ahmedabad at the world’s biggest cricket stadium.

The IPL will increase from eight to 10 teams from 2022 as it seeks to capitalise on its growing international popularity with increased fees for its television and other rights. The competition will have 74 matches, where each side will play seven home and seven away games.

The winning bids beat 20 other top Indian conglomerates and international concerns such as the Glazer family, owners of English Premier League football giants Manchester United, to secure the new teams.

The Luxembourg-based CVC has a cash chest of more than US$100 billion which it has used in recent years to change international sport. It has already spent several billion dollars to take major stakes in international rugby union and top football properties such as Spain’s La Liga championship.

It has also bought into the international volleyball federation, previously owned Formula One and has been in talks in recent months to merge the men’s and women’s international tennis tours and to take a stake in the San Antonio Spurs National Basketball Association franchise.

“It is good be back in the IPL and I am delighted,” RPSG owner Sanjiv Goenka told cricket website ESPNcricinfo. “It is an initial step. We now have to build a good team and perform.”

Sourav Ganguly, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which runs the IPL, said it was “heartening” to see the teams sold for “such a high valuation”.

“It reiterates the cricketing and financial strength of our cricket ecosystem,” he said.

He argued that the involvement of two foreign bidders, CVC and the Glazers, “strongly emphasises the global appeal of the IPL as a sports property”.

“The IPL is proving to be a wonderful instrument in globalising the game of cricket,” he added.

RPGS owns one of India’s top football teams, Mohun Bagan, and used to be part of the IPL with the Rising Pune Supergiants, which took part in the tournament when two teams were banned in 2016-2017 over a corruption scandal.

Members of the two teams were charged with illegal betting and spot-fixing.

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The IPL has been dogged by other corruption and gambling scandals. But it attracts huge TV audiences in India, and has spawned T20 tournaments around the globe.

Its brand value was estimated at US$6.7 billion in 2019 by the Duff and Phelps financial consultancy. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was estimated to generate more than US$11 billion for the Indian economy each year.

This year, the eight-team competition was halted close to its halfway stage in May after two franchises reported Covid-19 cases. The second half was subsequently shifted to the United Arab Emirates, with the Chennai Super Kings, led by former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, winning their fourth IPL title by beating the Kolkata Knight Riders in the final in Dubai.

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