Cricket Australia meets Silver Lake as it considers private equity funding

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Such sums being reaped at a time when CA has suffered a downturn in its most recent overseas broadcast rights deal with the UK broadcaster BT Sport have turned plenty of heads in the game’s administration.

While there remains a high degree of confidence within cricket that there is still more money to be wrung out of broadcast rights in the next cycle, more diverse revenue sources are being prudently pursued by most sports around the globe.

Whether CA and the states need to go down the same path as the more cash-strapped likes of rugby union and soccer in Australia is another question.

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There are three distinct models by which CA and the states could bring private equity into cricket.
The most often discussed is to sell partial stakes in some or all of the BBL clubs, as floated in a prospectus drafted jointly by the governing body and Credit Suisse in 2010, shortly before the tournament began.

The second option would be, as outlined by BCG, to restructure the W/BBL’s commercial operations into a separate entity to CA, and then sell a percentage stake in that entity to private equity for an agreed fee that may be valued at more than $1 billion.

That group would then have ownership of a stake in perpetuity and also representation on a joint advisory board to run the tournament.

Lastly, CA could do the same carve-out of its entire commercial operation, responsible for broadcast rights, sponsorship and marketing, and likewise sell a portion to private equity for an even larger fee.

Such an outcome would take Australian cricket back to the sort of arrangement it existed under for the first 15 years after the World Series Cricket revolution, when Kerry Packer’s PBL Marketing held the exclusive commercial rights to the sport until 1994.

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Private ownership in cricket has had some loud backers down the years, not least in NSW, where the former IPL club CEO Neil Maxwell has been a vocal advocate.

Cricket NSW chair John Knox heads the Australian operations of Ares Management, an alternative investment fund manager that has recently bought up stakes in soccer, Formula One and baseball.

At the same time, opposition to any such move would likely be based around the fact that it would remove Australian cricket’s autonomy in terms of decisions around scheduling, such as the place of the BBL alongside Test cricket. It would also mean decisions about the game would be made for strictly commercial reasons, as investors aim purely to maximise their return.

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