After Rajasthan Royals, Lachlan Murdoch eyes media

June 6th, 2008 - 6:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 6 (IANS) After his low-key investment in the unfancied Rajasthan Royals fetched him a multimillion-dollar windfall in the Indian Premier League (IPL), business magnate Lachlan Murdoch is eyeing rich stakes in the fast-growing and lucrative Indian media. Murdoch was one of three members of the consortium that owned Rajasthan Royals with Manoj Badale being the chairman and major shareholder.

Badale’s company, Emerging Media, leads the consortium, with Murdoch brought on board as its media partner and businessman Suresh Chellaram as its Indian partner.

“We wanted a strong media partner and a strong Indian partner, recognising the potential of the franchise over a number of years,” Badale said.

An Indian-born, London-based entrepreneur, Badale says Murdoch has been “a delight to work with”.

More important for Murdoch, the victory may also give him a high-profile ticket into other Indian media deals.

Badale hinted that the investment in the Royals was only Murdoch’s first step in Indian media:

“Lachlan is definitely intrigued by India. Actually, I think he’s more than intrigued. He sees the huge potential this country has,” Badale was quoted as saying in The Australian.

Murdoch, a director of News Corporation - which owns News Limited, publisher of The Australian, has given little away about his reasons for investing in the franchise or about the size of his stake.

In January he would say only that “the potential for Indian domestic cricket has never looked better”.

But in the past he has been linked with high-profile identities on the subcontinent.

Most prominently, Murdoch has been associated with one of the richest men in India and Asia, and the owner of the rival Mumbai Indians IPL team, Mukesh Ambani, amid speculation the two may pursue Indian media ventures.

Those who know Murdoch say he was “very happy” with the Rajasthan Royals winning the inaugural IPL. The team is set to gain tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship, merchandising, gate attendances and TV rights in coming years as a result of winning the tournament, multiplying the team’s US $ 1.2 million prize money for the win many times over.

Neil Maxwell, Australian chief executive of the rival Kings XI Punjab side, said that the win would substantially expand the value of the Royals.

“It brings a status, which in India is particularly important. It increases your following both in corporate sense and in public sense,” he said.

“The key for them (Rajasthan Royals) will be to leverage that success over the next 12 months. The potential from a business perspective is the capital appreciation of the franchise. It is in the interests of the franchises to make sure the IPL grows, so that it increases the value of the franchises,” Maxwell said.

The inaugural IPL exceeded all expectations, with the matches characterised by large crowds and large TV ratings in India.

The Rajasthan Royals, which were purchased for $US67 million by the Emerging Media consortium and have the IPL’s cheapest playing roster, could prove lucrative in their own right for Murdoch.

Badale believes the IPL could become one of the world’s leading sport and media rights properties.

“The Rajasthan Royals need to bring all the things to market: fan-based memberships, corporate hospitality and sports sponsorship. Indians want to be associated with winners,” said Badale.

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