06 Dec

Following the announcement that Bollywood’s Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders is investing in the league, now names of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (pictured on the right) and PayTM founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma have emerged as further investors in the American Major League Cricket venture (MLC). According to a report by Cricbuzz both Nadella and Vijay Shekhar have invested along with Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayan. 

The leading Cricket website has quoted sources close to the league who has claimed that these investments were made in the last quarter of 2019 in the holding company of the American T20 League. 

Microsoft CEO Nadella is an avid sports fan and holds a stake in Seattle based MLS soccer club Seattle Sounders FC. Similarly, PAYTM founder Sharma is associated with cricket in a big way in India through his company. PayTM owns sponsorship rights of all BCCI cricket and is also the umpire partner in the Indian Premier League. 

The report further claims that total rollout investments in the league is in the range of $100m and a final list of the 15 high profile investors is expected to be published early next week. 

Shah Rukh Khan and his KKR group has invested in the American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), along with his partners in the Knight Riders franchise — Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta. 

“For several years now, we have been expanding the Knight Riders brand globally and closely watching the potential for T20 cricket in the US. We are convinced that Major League Cricket has all the pieces in place to execute its plans and we look forward to making our partnership an enormous success in the coming years,” Khan said in a statement. 

“Even though cricket is not a mainstream sport in the U.S., the size of the diaspora and the appetite for cricket is so strong that the U.S. is the second-largest market to consume cricket content, after India,” Knight Riders Group CEO Venky Mysore said in a phone call. 

Among Knight Riders’ holdings are the Kolkata Knight Riders, an IPL team in India, as well as T20 franchises in Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa. There are also talks in progress to own a franchise in yet to be launched England Cricket Board’s – The Hundred. 

The U.S. league will probably take place in late summer after the Indian Premier League has finished, freeing up international players. ACE plans to begin a minor league system in 2021 in preparation for launching what’s expected to be a six-team U.S. pro circuit in 2022. Rather than selling franchises, ACE is selling ownership interests in the league, with most investors eventually adopting a league team as their own. The dollar commitment of Khan’s group isn’t disclosed, although ballpark figures for ACE’s early pro league fundraising are in the $60 million to $75 million range, according to Mysore. 

“The combination of Bollywood and T20 cricket has been extremely successful in other markets, and we’re looking to leverage that to the extent we can in content creation and the merger of entertainment and cricket,” said ACE co-founder Vijay Srinivasan in a phone call to Yahoo Sports. 

Srinivasan is also CEO of Willow Television, an American sports channel focused on cricket. “T20 broke out as a television product in 2007 and since then has been totally energized. Some estimates are that three-quarters of all cricket media revenues are associated with the T20 format.” 

John Stephenson 


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