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JSW Group revives interest in acquiring an IPL team

MUMBAI: Almost two years after shelving plans to acquire an existing IPL team, industrialist Sajjan Jindal’s JSW Group is now ready to swing a deal.

The change in sentiment has come at a time when the 10-year-old television deal expires and the new one promises to fetch much higher revenues for the franchises.

A couple of Indian Premier League (IPL) team owners might be looking to sell if the valuation is right.

Parth_jindal“We are looking at the IPL as a big opportunity. There are a couple of franchises which we know are looking to exit. So, we are actively looking at that,” Sajjan Jindal’s son Parth Jindal said, without divulging the names of the franchises.

So, has the business climate for the IPL franchises changed for the better?

Parth referred to the market talk of the upcoming TV rights for the IPL going at three times the earlier size. The IPL franchises get from the BCCI a share in revenue from the central pool, a large part of which comes from the TV rights fee that the cricket board earns by selling to a broadcaster.

If the media rights fee for the new cycle of rights after the completion of the 10th edition of the IPL sees a substantial jump, the team owners stand to gain.

The new surge in interest in the IPL is also reflected in recent deals like the one signed by Chinese mobile handset maker Oppo, Parth said.

“The IPL will be a profit-making venture. I think all IPL teams will make money,” he added.

Though the diversified JSW Group looks at sports from a brand-building perspective and as a commitment towards the country, Parth said cricket would be a commercial venture. Incidentally, the Group owns the I-League football club Bengaluru FC.

“Cricket does not need any investing. It has enough money already,” he said.

Being held during the summer holidays, the 10-year-old cash-rich IPL attracts good viewership.

In 2015, JSW Steel chairman Sajjan Jindal had said that his group was planning to acquire an IPL side. “Cricket is the number one sport in our country so there is an idea to acquire a team… an IPL team. But, I cannot comment which team would be,” he had then said.

“Moneywise, I don’t think that is the issue (because), the idea is that we want to take some credible team so that we can promote sports,” Sajjan had further stated.

The speculation was that the group would gobble up Vijay Mallya-owned Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). However, a betting scandal rocked the IPL and JSW Group decided to put on hold its plans to acquire an IPL cricket team.

While RCB could still be a target, Kalanithi Maran-promoted Sun TV Network was open to selling its IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2015 when the T20 league was mired in controversies over spot-fixing and betting charges. Sun TV Network had bought the Hyderabad team in October 2012 with a winning bid of Rs 425 crore. It is not clear if Sun would be interested in selling now.

So, will we see the buyout of an IPL franchise? Parth would want to believe so.

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