Steve Ballmer, Mukesh Ambani, François Pinault and Dietrich Mateschitz. How are these billionaires linked? These are the top billionaires who form the elite club of the world’s richest sports team owners.

Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries (RIL), which owns the popular Indian Premier League cricket franchise Mumbai Indians through a wholly-owned subsidiary, Indiawin Sports, is in the second spot with a net worth of $71.2 billion, as of January 31, on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He trails Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, whose net worth stands at $83.6 billion, as of January 31, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

François Pinault, owner of fashion brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, is third on the list. Pinault owns a football team, the Stade Rennais FC. Red Bull energy drink company co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz comes in at fourth. He owns Formula One teams Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, and Major League Soccer club, New York Red Bulls.

Ambani has made a fresh attempt to grow big in the sports arena by buying out IMG Reliance Limited (IMG-R), a joint venture company between RIL and IMG, engaged in the business of creation, management, implementation, and commercialisation of sporting, fashion, and entertainment events in India. IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events, and media, operating in more than 30 countries.

On December 24, 2020, RIL informed stock exchanges that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 50% stake held by IMG in IMG-R, for ₹52.08 crore, in an all-cash deal. Post the acquisition, IMG-R has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of RIL and been rebranded as RISE Worldwide Ltd.

The new entity will continue to handle all that IMG-R was doing in India and abroad. IMG Singapore Pte. Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of IMG, was holding 50% of IMG-R’s share capital. Formed in 2010, the Mumbai-headquartered IMG-R has been the market leader in sports marketing, licensing, and sponsorship in India. Its clients include Indian Premier League (IPL) teams, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and several top Indian cricketers. IMG-R also owned and operated the Tata Open Maharashtra tennis tournament.

In 2019-20, IMG-R’s turnover had slipped to ₹181.70 crore from ₹195.55 crore in the previous year while net profit slid to ₹16.35 crore from ₹19.25 crore in 2018-19.

As per RIL’s annual report, net assets of IMG-R stood at ₹157 crore as on March 31, 2020. The total amount invested was ₹201.23 crore while its net worth was ₹99.18 crore. It has received ₹7.34 crore in profit in 2019-20.

On January 27, RIL announced its independent venture to step up activities in the sports, lifestyle, and entertainment business, in India and across the globe, through the buyout and the rebranding of its sports and lifestyle business to RISE Worldwide.

RIL said the transition to an independent brand identity is aimed at providing various verticals currently within the sports and lifestyle businesses autonomy to operate and create industry-driving strategies and world-class consumer experiences.

The portfolio of the new entity includes sports and sponsorship consulting, fashion, and sustainability platform building, athlete talent management, licensing, broadcast production, lifestyle, and entertainment with owned or managed key properties such as ISL, the country’s premier football league; Fashion Week, India’s premier fashion platform; Tata Open Maharashtra, South Asia’s only ATP World Tour event; The Voice of Fashion; and SU.RE Sustainable Resolution, among others.

According to a RISE Worldwide spokesperson, the company aims to provide a comprehensive solution to the sports, lifestyle, and entertainment industries as one inclusive force. The parent company has promised to make adequate investments in the segment.

“Built on our existing relationships, trust and the knowledge of the industry, RISE seeks to help partners reach their target audience effectively as we bring their creative initiatives to life and provide consumers with world class experiences across each of our properties,” said the spokesperson.

The company is already India’s largest independent sports, lifestyle, and entertainment enterprise, connecting with over 150 million youth on social media through their various IPs. It is already managing a robust roster of six cricket athletes exclusively, including Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Shreyas Iyer, under the company’s athlete talent management division.

The sports sponsorship and consultancy division represents brands like Dream11, boAt and BKT Tires, among others. The company exclusively marketed the global virtual inventory of the recently-concluded Australian tour of the Indian cricket team. The company also boasts of a fully-equipped broadcast production setup and is looking to engage in sports production contracts across the world.

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