The good word has it that the king of Indian commercial cinema, SRK is selling his entire stake (well the stake of Red Chillies Entertainment anyway) in his Kolkata Knight Riders IPL franchise. It seems recent on and off-field woes have taken a toll which is incommensurate with the financial and other intangible returns that SRK is deriving from his involvement with KKR and the IPL.
This media outlet has learned that SRK is in talks with the likes of the Sahara Group, Nokia and even Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to offload Red Chillies' stake in the woebegone franchise. Get this - the going rate is double the Rs 300 crore (US$75 million) that SRK bid for the Kolkata franchise, at a cool and easy Rs 600 crore ($150 million).
Any potential buyer will quite obviously be excited at the prospect of purchasing an operation that was profitable from Year 1 and clearly has efficient and effective management structures and systems in place. However, the interesting part is that IPL plans an expansion to 12 teams (from the current 8) in 2010. But wait, there's more. In order to ensure the golden goose doesn't slack off at work, Lalit Modi and co are planning a further two teams in 2012 - second teams in both Mumbai and Delhi.
The laws of natural competition / jealousy / egotism would dictate that Anil Ambani would desperately want the second Mumbai team, if only to prove that he's better than his older brother in their own backyard. However, these blokes haven't amassed their wealth by being stupid and Ambani junior might just see the light in acquiring a franchise which is the sole king of its domain.
Also, any valuations and comparisons with new franchises likely to come on board will have to factor in Kolkata's status as a metropolitan center and access to a stadium that seats 100,000. I haven't even counted the fact that most of those 100,000 were taken at each KKR's home matches in IPL1.
The smart money says that given the interesting economic times, Nokia does not really have the cash nor the history to take over a cricket team in a land as far removed from its home country as the moon is from the sun. The Sahara Group, given its long association with Team India and after missing out on becoming the major sponsor of Manchester United, will fight tooth and nail for a favourable deal. I still wonder though, if he wants this bad enough, will Sahara's might be any match for Anil Ambani's personal billions?
There is one thing I'm certain of, Lalit Modi's obsession with glorifying every minute non-event pertaining to his personal fiefdom will ensure that the going rate will not be shrouded under a maze of complex confidentiality agreements and legalese.
Watch this space folks, for once this deal is done you will be left a tad perplexed about the actual extent of these interesting economic times us normal people are forced to endure.
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