MUMBAI: Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla. Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia. Can Shilpa Shetty be far behind? Apparently not. Indian Bollywood actor and Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty now has joined the ranks of the top stars who own a piece of a franchise of the IPL (Indian Premiere League). She has bought a 12 per cent stake in the 2008 inaugural IPL winning team Rajasthan Royals.
Shilpa Shetty and her partner - UK based business man Raj Kundra - have invested $16.8 million (Rs 820 million) in the Rajasthan Royals. That puts the valuation of the franchise at around $140 million (Rs 6.83 billion), more than double the $67 million that the owners, Emerging Media, paid for it a little over a year ago.
Rajasthan Royals is led by Australian spin legend Shane Warne and has international stars like South African skipper Graeme Smith and Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson playing for it.
"I relate with the Rajasthan Royals because they were the underdogs last year just like me. It's an honour and a pleasure to be associated with the Rajasthan Royals," said Shetty.
She will also play a role in the team's promotional activities this year and she signaled that there could be a music video in the pipeline.
Rajasthan Royals chairman and co-owner Manoj Badale notes that the franchise has been able to bring a different ethos to the IPL. "Our aim is now to make the Rajasthan Royals a global brand. Our fan base has grown rapidly thanks to iconic players like Shane Warne. We were looking for a partner who would give us a different level of international presence and also help us exploit commercial opportunities. We had the benefit of being champions. We had earlier examined the possibility of an IPO but shelved those plans in December due to market conditions. We are not looking to raise more funds."
Kundra says that investing in the IPL is a long-term proposition. "I decided last year that I wanted to buy into an IPL franchise. It was a question of waiting for the right opportunity. In these difficult times one relies on a proven success formula. The IPL is just that. The IPL story has been inspirational."
Shetty now joins the ranks of fellow actress Preity Zinta who owns the Kings XI Punjab team along with her partner Ness Wadia, while Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan own the Kolkata Knight Riders team.
Last year's matches saw Shah Rukh Khan jumping all over Shoaib Akhtar; Preity Zinta hugging Yuvraj Singh. Will Shilpa Shetty do a sizzling number and inspire the Rajasthan Royals to get onto the winners' podium once again? Going by her winning habit she well might! Going by Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta's performance last year she well might not. Who knows? Watch this space!!!!