Bhartiya Mahila Cricket – In the decade since he founded private investment firm Redbird Capital Partners, Gerry has acquired stakes in sports properties as diverse as Cardinal Fenway Sports Group, the Yankees’ YES Network and Italian soccer team A.C. Milan. One of his partners at Redbird, Alec Scheiner, had previously served as a vice president of the N.F.L. Dallas Cowboys, and later managed the Cleveland Browns.
So both men are quite familiar with what a billion dollar business is like. However, the sport they find most beneficial to these days may be surprising.
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“When we first started watching cricket, we weren’t experts by any means,” said Scheiner. “But the more we studied it, the more we realized it felt like the NFL. Did 20 years ago.”
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That’s why RedBird bought a 15 percent stake in Rajasthan Royals, a team competing in the Indian Premier League in June 2021, for $37.5 million. The money flowing into the league over the past 15 months suggests the Redbirds have got a bargain.
Four months after the conclusion of that contract, the I.P.L. The expansion team sold for $940 million. Eight months later, the league negotiated new television and digital broadcast rights deals worth $6.2 billion.
At more than $1 billion a year, India’s top cricket competition — a closed league with just 10 teams — now earns annual broadcast revenue on par with top leagues like the N.F.L. ($10 billion a year), England’s Premier League (about $6.9 billion) and the N.B.A. ($2.7 billion).
On a per-game basis, the I.P.L., whose season lasts only two months, now ranks behind the N.F.L.
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Disney and Sony were among the bidders in last year’s broadcast rights tender. CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm that owned the Formula 1 motor racing series, now owns the I.P.L. Team to portfolio already interested in rugby and football. Among those who bumped it? The American owners of the N.F.L. Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English soccer giants Manchester United.
“I’m not sure we thought there would be this much global demand for franchises,” said Scheiner. RedBird’s $37.5 million investment could quadruple in value within a year. And with new investors around, most experts believe that every I.P.L. The franchise is now worth at least $1 billion or more.
Making money in cricket is a new phenomenon in India. In the 1990s, the sports governing body in India had to pay state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan to show the national team’s matches. The start of the I.P.L. In 2008 everything changed. Teams in the league play Twenty20, a television-friendly three-hour version of the game that overshadows the multi-day Test match format that gave cricket its frivolous and pedestrian image. IPL Matches now attract a domestic TV audience of over 200 million.
India’s passion for cricket and the sheer size of its market has caught the eye of deep-seated investors from abroad. Credit… Indranil Mukherjee/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
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The league’s rise was rapid. The architect, Lalit Modi, held a central position in the governing body of sports in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India. He rightly noted that Twenty20 could marry India’s love of cricket with a number of commercial opportunities, and in late 2007 he conducted a series of unlikely negotiations to assemble a sports league from scratch.
He promised the world’s best cricketers a bundle of salaries that could not be found anywhere else. He conducted high-profile auctions to sell teams to members of India’s business and media elite. And then he convinced Sony to pay $900 million for the broadcast rights for the first 10 editions of the tournament.
“It ticked a lot of boxes from an investment point of view,” said Mustafa Ghaus, director of Delhi Capitals, one of the league’s founding teams. “It’s a closed league with no relegations, so your income is secure regardless of your performance, but costs are limited by the player’s salary cap.”
With these safeguards for prospective team owners, Modi sold his eight teams for a total of $723 million. Buyers include industrialist Mukesh Ambani and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan. Dismissed by traditionalists as “hitting and laughing”, Twenty20 cricket became serious.
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Redbird Capital’s investment valued Rajasthan Royals at $250 million. After four months of I.P.L. The expansion team was sold for nearly $1 billion. Credit… Bangalore News Photos, via Associated Press
Nevertheless, the league’s early existence was generally precarious. The second season had to be moved to South Africa for security reasons. Modi was sacked by the BCCI after a power struggle. In 2010. Three teams were dissolved after running into financial trouble, and two senior officials received multi-year bans after being embroiled in match-fixing and illegal betting cases.
But only after India’s Supreme Court intervened and appointed a judicial committee to tighten governance rules and rule on conflicts of interest, the I.P.L. Truly turned out to be an investment vehicle.
The Supreme Court’s intervention is “a very important moment”, according to Matthew Wheeler of A&W Capital, which advises investing in sports in India. “Once the Supreme Court goes through that,” he said of the league, “you’re better off than before.” A $2.5 billion broadcast rights deal for the 2017 to 2022 seasons — a fivefold increase from the previous deal — only confirmed his view.
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Wheeler, a former professional cricketer, said his firm has begun recommending that its clients consider the I.P.L. Franchises in 2017. “The first person I spoke to said their fund does not cover India,” he said. “The second was uncertain. And the third was CVC, who asked for our help.
CVC Capital Partners had a presence in India but was not involved in cricket. Wheeler said he spent three years learning everything about the I.P.L. and building relationships with team owners and the B.C.C.I. “You have to be patient,” he said. Later, in August 2021, the governing body announced the suspension of the I.P.L. Up to 10 teams of eight. The bid was on.
RPSG Group, an Indian conglomerate, bought the franchise in Lucknow for $940 million, while CVC bought the Ahmedabad team for $750 million.
The bid has both the B.C.C.I. , put it at $270 million, dwarfing Redbird’s $250 million valuation of Rajasthan Royals, which was made just four months earlier. This means that the value of a single franchise in 2022 will exceed the total price paid for all eight original teams in the first auction in 2008.
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Among those disappointed were Indian billionaire-owned Adani Group and Lancer Capital, the private equity group led by Avram Glazer, the owner of the Buccaneers and Manchester United.
Stars like Rohit Sharma are some of the players who have gone to IPL. Every year. Credit … Dan Himbrechts/EPA, via shutterstock
The timing of the league’s expansion was deliberate. The big league means an increase in the number of games it can sell in its new TV rights deal. The deal stunned even sports industry veterans: $6.2 billion over the next five years, roughly split between domestic broadcast rights and digital rights.
Adam Sommerfeld, a sports investment expert at Certus Capital, now the I.P.L. A “no-brainer” for private equity firms and institutional investors.
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“They invest in the most popular sport in the second most populous country in the world,” Sommerfeld said. “Even if you just buy and hold, the IPL. Teams are clearly going to build significant value.
Unlike in European football, even owners of big, historic clubs struggle to generate regular profits, and investors in mid-level and smaller clubs face the annual prospect of punishing financial consequences if relegated to the lower division. IPL That means extras are virtually guaranteed. Media rights and league sponsorships go into a central revenue pot shared equally by the B.C.C.I. and 10 I.P.L. Franchises. Teams control all of their local revenue, including local sponsorship deals, ticket sales and merchandise, and player salaries — often the biggest expense for sports teams — are capped at manageable levels.
Calculations by an Indian analyst, K Srinivas Rao, suggested that teams would spend only 35 percent of their central revenue on wages in 2021. Every IPL The team is believed to be profitable in 2021, even if the pandemic forces them to play matches in empty stadiums.
The difficulty now for prospective investors is the dearth of opportunities. Even after its expansion, I.P.L. Still has only 10 franchisees. Sommerfeld claims to have a list of “six or seven” existing owners of American professional teams who have inquired about the I.P.L.
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The only problem is that no one who currently owns the team is interested in parting with it.
A version of this article appears in print in the New York edition, Section B, page 8
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