Till a few years ago, Lachlan Murdoch was famous for his dashing looks, a tattoo on one of his forearms and a swimsuit model on the other (to whom he is married). Then, some time in mid-2005, the eldest son of global media baron Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, News Corp., abruptly walked away from the integrated media conglomerate his father founded, and which he was tipped to head (he’s still on the board, and a consultant to News Corp.).
Early this year, Murdoch began plotting a re-entry into the media sector, along with James Packer (son of late media mogul Kerry Packer), by making a bid for Consolidated Media Holdings, an Australian media major. At the time of writing, Murdoch had suffered a setback, what with a major financial backer of the proposed $3.3-billion bid withdrawing support to the acquisition.The 37-year-old Murdoch clearly has ambitions of emerging as a media & entertainment baron in his own right, and he’s going about it in his own quiet way. Those ambitions extend to India, too, where the Australian entrepreneur has joined hands with a Londonbased company called Emerging Media, and thrown his hat into the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Emerging Media, which has won the Jaipur team, called the Rajasthan Royals, for $67 million (the lowest bid in IPL), is the only foreign team owner in the eight-team cricket carnival. Murdoch’s contribution to the venture is undisclosed.
“We were surprised to be the only foreign participant,” Murdoch told Business Today. “That said, I think the global interest in IPL only took off after the bids, and perhaps the player auction. People across the world are sitting up and taking note of the event now. In Australia, the tournament is generating enormous interest.”
Emerging Media hopes to be profitable in five years. Says Manoj K. Badale, Founder, Emerging Media: “We are investing a minimum of $15 million in building the franchise over the next two years, over and above the amount paid for the franchise.”
Emerging Media, adds Badale, isn’t a stranger to cricket. The business was originally known as Investors in Cricket; three years ago, it acquired the rights to the Leicestershire County Cricket Club, to develop the club’s commercial profile (especially amongst the local Asian community). The company also staged the first ever 20-20 club Champions League between the domestic 20-20 champions of England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Last fortnight, Emerging Media unveiled the team logo for the Rajasthan Royals, ahead of the League Championship that’s slated to begin on April 18. “We are investing heavily in local marketing and local awareness. We are not just trying to mobilise a city or a state, but a global diaspora that is significant and far-reaching,” informs Badale.
Murdoch, for his part, is aware of the financial muscle behind some of the teams in IPL, Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya being the two moneybags that come first to mind. “The competition is formidable, and to be respected. Equally though, our consortium is a balanced one with an equally strong investor base. Perhaps our strength is that we are not tied to a particular company or brand, and that our team has the best platform (given its team and investor base) for global awareness,” says Murdoch. Let the games begin.