Mahendra Singh Dhoni jumps from Chennai Super Kings to Chennaiyin

Bollywood actors flock to sports franchises in India.

By The American Bazaar Staff

NEW YORK: The new must-have prized possession in India for the rich and famous seems to be sports franchises: the Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been bit by the bug now, and days after winning his second Champions Cricket League title – hitting the winning runs to boot – has decided to invest in the Indian Soccer League (ISL) by becoming the co-owner of the Chennaiyin FC, sharing the team’s fortunes with actor Abhishek Bachchan and Vita Jalaj Dani, the director of Dani Finlease Ltd. and Geetanjali Trading And Investments Private Limited.

M.S. Dhoni (courtesy of Wikipedia)
M.S. Dhoni (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Dhoni is not the only Indian cricketer to invest in a sports franchise. His teammate and India’s vice-captain Virat Kohli is a co-owner of the ISL team FC Goa. Superstar Sachin Tendulkar is a co-owner of the Kerala Blasters FC along with PVP ventures, which also owns a team in the Indian Badminton League. Former India captain and influential TV commentator Sourav Ganguly is a co-owner of the fancily titled Atletico de Kolkata, part of a consortium that also includes the Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid.

Chennaiyin FC announced the exciting news of Dhoni’s stake through twitter: “Heartthrob of Chennai, Heartthrob of the Nation; now the Co-owner of #ChennaiyinFC! Welcome @msdhoni #ChennaiyinDhoni #WelcomeMSD”

Interestingly, Chennai got a team in the ISL after Bangalore franchise was disbanded, despite making the cut of eight teams in the fray.

Dhoni has a passionate co-owner in Bachchan, who has been rapidly buying up franchises across the country, and is a visible presence with his vociferous and animated support at matches ranging from cricket to kabaddi. His last pick-up was the kabaddi team Jaipur Pink Panthers, which went on to win the inaugural Pro Kabaddi title against U Mumba earlier this year.

The addition of Dhoni to its team owners is a big boost to Chennaiyin. Dhoni, 33, is one of the richest and most well-known sports personalities in the world. Forbes ranked Dhoni at 22nd in the list of highest paid athletes in the world, estimating his current earnings at $30 million. The TIME magazine added Dhoni in its “Time 100” list of 100 most influential people of 2011. In 2012, SportsPro rated Dhoni as the 16th most marketable athlete in the world. Currently, Dhoni has 20 advertising endorsements in India, only Shahrukh Khan has more with 21.

Dhoni has dabbled in sports franchises before also. He co-parternered Akkineni Nagarjuna in buying a Supersport World Championship team Mahi Racing Team India.

According to a report in April in the Times of India, actors Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham are also stakeholders in ISL teams.

IMG-Reliance, who is also the main sponsors of the All India Football Federation with a 15-year marketing contract in place since 2010, announced the franchise owners after evaluating some 30 bids. Salman Khan (Pune), Ranbir Kapoor (Mumbai) and John Abraham (Shillong) are among the co-owners while Den Network (Delhi), Sun Group (Bangalore) and Videocon (Goa) are single owners of their teams. The base price for each team was kept at Rs. 12 crore and according to sources, Kolkata fetched the highest price at Rs. 18 crore.

According to the Times report, here are the eight teams from cities across the country that will vie in the ISL, and their team owners (the Bangalore team was included in that report but has been replaced by Chennai):

  • Delhi: Sameer Manchanda led Den Network.
  • Goa: Dattaraj Salgaocar, Shrinivas V Dempo, Venugopal Dhoot (Videocon).
  • Guwahati: John Abraham and Shillong Lajong.
  • Kochi: Sachin Tendulkar and PVP Ventures
  • Kolkata: Sourav Ganguly, Harshavardhan Neotia, Atletico Madrid, Sanjeev Goenka, Utsav Parekh.
  • Mumbai: Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh.
  • Pune: Salman Khan with Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan of the Wadhawan Group.
  • Chennai: Abhishek Bachchan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The ISL kicks off on October 12 in Kolkata, with the final scheduled to be held on December 20.

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