Mukesh Ambani Asia’s richest, but Jack Ma stays ahead in sports

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Being astute business magnates and Asia’s top two richest persons are not the only common traits of Mukesh Ambani and Jack Ma, the Chinese Alibaba Group founder and chairman whom the Reliance Industries chairman has toppled as the richest Asian individual.

The two are also the ardent sports patrons, promoters and sports investors.

The chairman and MD of the most successful Indian conglomerate whose business interests ranges from petroleum to telecom, Ambani’s fortunes are estimated to be worth $44.3 billion on Friday. Popular investor and philanthropists Jack Ma’s wealth stood at $44 billion at the close of trading Friday in the U.S., where the company is listed.

Ambani overtaking Ma was made possible as he added $4 billion to his fortune this year with Reliance doubling its petrochemicals capacity and the major disruptive telecom wave brought forth by Jio since last year.

Amidst diversified business interests and competition, the two have a common trait and trade for investing and uplifting sports and leverage its power to enhance market reach, CSR, and benevolent efforts. The duo, over the years, have invested hundreds of million dollars to become a force to be reckoned among the global sport’s superpowers. Not to mention their ability to influence and shape the moves of the international sports bodies.

Mukesh Ambani has toppled Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma as the richest Asian. However, in spite of Reliance and Ambani’s diversified interests in sports, Ma stays ahead in this trade.

AMBANI’S CRICKET AND FOOTBALL EMPIRE

Mukesh along with spouse Nita Ambani owns one of the most successful franchisee in the 20-over format Indian Premier League (IPL). The brand value of Mumbai Indians, a three-time champion of the cricket’s richest professional league, was estimated to be $106 million in 2017 according to Duff & Phelps. A 36% jump since 2016 made it one of the most valuable IPL teams and also the first franchise to cross $100 million mark among the franchises.

In 2013, Reliance had founded the pinnacle of Indian football – Indian Super League (ISL) – in partnership with International Management Group (IMG) and Star Sports. In 2010, All India Football Federation signed a whopping ₹700 crore 15-year deal with Reliance Industries and the IMG. The deal gave IMG-Reliance the exclusive commercial rights to sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, video, franchising, and the right to create a new football league.

The league is still in its infancy with just four, but successful, seasons since 2014. It has been dashing forward with leaps and bounds, exceeding the expectations of the football pundits and Pro-I-League critics. A report by The Guardian suggests that the league’s average attendance in 2014 – 24,357 – was the fourth highest and behind the other European giants such as Bundesliga, Premier League and LaLiga. There has been a steady, albeit slow, rise ever since.

Prominent Indian two-wheeler brand Hero MotoCorp had put its much-needed faith in the league by extending its commitment with $25 million dollars 3-year title sponsorship deal ahead of 2017-18 season. The company was on board since the inaugural season which also saw the German sportswear and equipment giant Puma become the official match ball supplier. ISL saw its central sponsorship revenue pool doubling to ₹100 crores in the second season with the addition of various corporates like Flipkart and DHL.

Nita Ambani, who is also known for her philanthropic efforts in sports, became the first Indian women to be elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 4 August 2016. She is known to be the top Indian women influencer in the spheres of sports and business.

Ambani’s Reliance Jio has been one of the biggest spenders of the IPL sponsorships on the teams and on-air ad inventory.

JACK MA’S INVESTMENTS – FROM FOOTBALL, ESPORTS TO OLYMPICS

Alibaba Group has invested $192 million for a 50% stake in Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C. in 2014, a team that spent a hefty $46 million to sign Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez. Its share now stands at 37.81% after it divested some of its stake in 2016 season of the top division of Chinese football.

The club, according to Forbes, is the most valuable football team in China, with a team value of $282 million and an estimated revenue of $57 million in 2015. As per the Forbes data for latest football clubs valuation, it stands nowhere among the global top 20.

However, Jack Ma’s grabbed bigger headlines globally for his whopping $800 million, multi-year sponsorship of the Olympics – till 2028, which quite surprised the global corporates. Some other reports suggested the deal amount to be $600 million. But the fact remains, it is still among the top most expensive sponsorship deals in the history of sports.

The agreement, that kicked off with Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, includes the group’s commitment towards providing digital, cloud data services and an online marketplace for the Olympics as well as the creation of an Olympics television channel with content custom-made for younger Chinese audiences.

Alibaba is the name behind esports’ entry into the Asian Games as the 2018 edition in Jakarta Palembang will feature esports as a demonstration event. This was primarily attributed to Jack Ma’s strengthened relations with IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). The Chinese e-commerce giant had earlier committed a $150 million investment in the E-Sports through its Alisport division, which includes $ 5.5m investment in organising tournaments.

In 2016, Alisports entered into an agreement with the International e-sports Federation (IeSF) to create the WESG, a market-leading international esports tournament. The first edition of the WESG saw 63,000 participants from 125 countries battle for a share of the $5.5 million prize pot. Yet the results proved to be demotivating for Alisports that lost 70 per cent of their investment.

Alibaba’s sports division, AliSports was established in 2015 to look after the sports business interest of Jack Ma’s group including television and digital sports rights, event operation, venue commercialization, copyright, media, business development, gaming, and ticketing. According to South China Morning Post, the division was founded to cash in on China’s nascent sports market, which has been forecast by the government’s state council to grow to 5 trillion yuan by 2025.

Alisport was behind the record transfer deal with Mendes for his client Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid. Mendes’s most high-profile client is superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Within four months of its founding, Alisports had agreed deals to screen the NFL in China, sponsor FIFA Club World Cup from 2015 to 2022, and signed partnerships with Brazil star Ronaldo and the world governing bodies of boxing and basketball.

The company has announced a Champion of Champions rugby sevens tournament in 2017, to be played in Shanghai for the highest prize money ever offered in the sport. Jack Ma’s bid to bring rugby to China was signed with the sport’s governing body, World Rugby, and includes the goal of developing 1 million rugby players in China over the next decade.

In 2015, Jack Ma and along with another Chinese business mogul Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, invested $128 million in a funding round for backing new sports rights venture LeTV Sports. It was spun-off from online video firm LeShi Internet Information, handles broadcast and media rights to 120 events in 12 sports categories and has 4,000 matches for live broadcast. The company is also involved in program production. Events include Champions Cup and soccer’s China Women’s Super League.


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