Cricket Draws Bollywood Star Power

Top stars in India showbiz enjoying new roles as team owners

Shah Rukh Khan Cricket Bollywood

The three things that matter most in Indian life are religion, cricket and movies. So perhaps it’s fitting that among the owners of cricket teams in the newfangled Indian Premier League is a trio of Bollywood stars.

The catalyst six years ago was entrepreneur-showman Lalit Modi’s launch of the IPL and its high-speed, made-for-television version of the game — complete with gaudy uniforms, player auctions and incentives to swing for the fences at every occasion.

The seed money needed to buy the world’s best players for the league’s two-month schedule required deep pockets (read, top industrialists and consortia built around Bollywood stars). Bollywood royalty Shah Rukh Khan co-owns the Kolkata Knight Riders; actress Preity Zinta has an ownership stake in the Kings XI Punjab; and actress Shilpa Shetty co-owns the Rajasthan Royals with Lachlan Murdoch.

Cricket and star power are a heady mix. The Indian unit of Sony Television committed $1 billion in 2008 for 10 years of TV rights. And other media owners are paying for the privilege of getting their brands on Sony’s airtime — Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, Sun TV and the Deccan Chronicle are all team owners.