James Murdoch and Uday Shankar have formed Bodhi Tree, an investment platform financially supported by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) designed to invest in media and consumer technology opportunities in South and Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on India.
Murdoch set up Lupa Systems as a private holding company in 2019 following his departure as CEO of 21st Century Fox, Sky plc, and Star. He subsequently quit as a director of News Corp. in July 2020. Shankar was formerly chair and CEO of Star India and president of Walt Disney Asia Pacific. Last year, Shankar took a stake in Lupa.
Bodhi Tree will be run by Murdoch and Shankar as co-chairs and QIA will commit up to $1.5 billion to the venture. “Bodhi Tree will leverage technology to provide disruptive solutions that drive transformational outcomes in sectors with deep consumer engagement — including media, education and healthcare — to positively impact millions of consumers across the region. Bodhi Tree will be investing at scale to achieve these outcomes,” the company said in a statement.
Murdoch and Shankar said: “We are very pleased to announce Bodhi Tree. Opportunities abound to scale exciting businesses in India and the broader Southeast Asia region. Our continued focus on investing and building relationships in these regions comes from our deep conviction in the long-term growth of these economies and the incredible power of these consumers, as these sectors are transformed by technology.”
While no investment targets have been announced yet, the Indian market suggests that the Murdoch-Shankar combine is on the cusp of acquiring a significant stake in an Indian broadcasting major with a view to bidding for rights to the lucrative Indian Premier League cricket championship. The IPL rights are currently held by Disney Plus Hotstar, a service launched under Shankar’s leadership. He was instrumental in the $2.55 billion successful bid made for the league rights in 2017.
QIA CEO Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud said: “QIA is investing in the technology and media space and India is a key market for us. QIA looks forward to backing Bodhi Tree as they drive forward their growth plans in the future.”