As if to demonstrate the global shift in cricketing power to India, various companies and consortia paid more than $718m (£364m) yesterday to buy the eight franchises of the Indian cricket board's Twenty20 Indian Premier league, which begins in April.
The base price for owning a team for 10 years was set at $50m, but the bidding went beyond that. Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of India's most valuable company, Reliance Industries, successfully bid $111.9m for the Mumbai team while United Breweries, owned by another billionaire, Vijay Mallya – who last year bought into the Formula One team Spyker and renamed it Force India – snapped up Bangalore for $111.6m after losing out on the Mumbai bid.
The Indian cricket board retains the rights to each team, with the winning bidders paying their sums over 10 years – 10 per cent each year. The league, expected to feature many of the game's best players, is an effort to counter an unofficial Indian Twenty20 league which began late last year.
"I'm delighted that UB group has got it," Mallya said. "We will now use this as an active promotional platform for all our brands." Eleven companies and consortia were in the race to own teams from a choice of 12 cities where the franchises would be based. The Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was part of the consortium that secured Kolkata for $75.09m, while the infrastructure company GMR Holdings won the Delhi franchise for $84m.
"I will support cricket and not promote cricket, otherwise people will say I am promoting my films," Shah Rukh said, in a reference to those who criticised his presence at the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa last year.
Among other bids, Mohali went for $76m to a syndicate including the Bollywood actress Preity Zinta while the media group Deccan Chronicle won Hyderabad for $107.01m. India Cements won the Chennai franchise for $91m while Jaipur was snapped up for $67m by a British company, Emerging Media.
The 44-day IPL starts on 18 April and will feature eight franchises with 16-man squads in its inaugural season. Teams will play home and away games leading up to a grand final. The first year will feature 59 matches played in late afternoon for prime-time TV.
India has the largest global cricket audience. "To date we [the Indian Premier League] have made $1.749 billion," the board vice-president, Lalit Modi, said.
IPL WINNING BIDS: 1. Mumbai Reliance Industries £57.4m; 2. Hyderabad Deccan Chronicle £54.9m; 3. Bangalore Vijay Mallya's UB Group £54.3m; 4. Chennai India Cements $91m; 5. Delhi GMR Holdings $84m; 6. Mohali Preity Zinta consortium $76m; 7. Kolkata Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies $75.09m; 8. Jaipur Emerging Media (consortium including Manoj Badale, Lachlan Murdoch and other investors) $67m.