IPL: Kolkata Knight Riders, the Bollywood franchise aiming for past glories

Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan, second right, and actress Juhi Chawla stand next to the new logo of Indian Premier League cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) during the launch of a new marketing campaign of the team in Mumbai, India, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Kolkata Knight Riders co-owners Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan and actress Juhi Chawla pictured in 2012. Photo: AP

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have been an Indian Premier League outfit since the first 2008 edition of India’s T20 phenomenon. From 'fake' blog controversies, player turnover, captaincy sackings and two titles for good measure, their IPL journey has been an intriguing one.

The franchise, which plays at the 68,000-capacity Eden Gardens, performed well below the status befitting celebrity ownership at the start of their project and finished a best of sixth in the first three editions of the IPL.

Indian great Sourav Ganguly was KKR’s first captain, before being removed, reinstated and then sacked as captain in the first four years before Gautam Gambhir was auctioned in and KKR won their first IPL in 2012 under his leadership. A second title came in 2014.

In the last two seasons, KKR have been on a cull and bidding mission in the IPL auctions. They retained four players in 2022 and released as many as 15 players from their squad after finishing seventh. Yet, with Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan as co-owner, the team’s brand and growth value continues to climb.

Star players

Andre Russell — West Indies

Since 2014, KKR have relied on Andre Russell’s powerful batting and death-bowling nous as a marquee signing. Russell, one of two West Indians alongside Sunil Narine, notched his 100th match for KKR in the 2023 edition and has plundered over 2,000 runs.

Kolkata Knight Riders' Andre Russell celebrates after taking the wicket of Sunrisers Hyderabad's Rahul Tripathi (not pictured) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad on May 4, 2023. (Photo by Noah SEELAM / AFP) (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)
Kolkata Knight Riders' Andre Russell celebrates after taking the wicket of Sunrisers Hyderabad's Rahul Tripathi in the 2023 edition. Photo: Getty

Jason Roy — England

Following team injuries, KKR signed the English opener and short-form specialist for $341,000 from his base price of around $183,000. Having featured in the past two editions, Roy last played in the 2021 season for Sunrisers Hyderabad and started his KKR career with two half centuries in his opening three matches — his runs at the top order crucial to any franchise success.

Behind the KKR brand

The franchise, representing Kolkata and West Bengal, is owned by Red Chillies Entertainment and the Mehta Group. The former was established in 2002 by Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri Khan. The company’s CEO Venky Mysore also has the same role with KKR. Jay Mehta, who owns the Mehta Group, is married to Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla.

Indian actor and co-owner of the 'Kolkata' cricket team, Shahrukh Khan, (L) helps as actress Juhi Chawla (R) hands over a replica helmet to the team captain Sourav Ganguly (C) during a press meet in Kolkata, on March 11, 2008. The Indian Professional League, brainchild of the Board of Contol for Cricket in India (BCCI) featuring eight franchised city-based teams drawn from a star cast of cricket's top players, will be held over 44 days in 12 Indian cities from April 18. AFP PHOTO/Deshakalyan CHOWDHURY (Photo credit should read DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP via Getty Images)
Shah Rukh Khan and actress Juhi Chawla hand over a replica helmet to team captain Sourav Ganguly in 2008. Photo: Getty

Red Chillies Entertainment holds a 55% stake in the franchise, with Mehta Group owning the remaining 45%. The Mehta Group is a conglomerate based in Maharashtra, with headquarters in Gujarat and has investments in the insurance, finance, engineering and packaging sectors to name but a few.

KKR also own the Trinbago Knight Riders franchise in the Caribbean Premier League and the Cape Town Knight Riders team in South Africa’s T20 league, as well as the US' Major League Cricket.

The money spinners

KKR has continually been cited as one of the richest franchises in the IPL in recent years. Indeed it was the second richest from 2008-14 and 2018-19, with Nokia (NOK) as the principal sponsor of the Kolkata franchise until deciding not to renew in 2021.

KKR had the smallest bid purse of the IPL teams in the 2023 auction ($850,000), with their biggest purchase coming in the form of Shakib Al Hasan ($182,000).

Kolkata Knight Riders bowler Jacques Kallis, center, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Chris Gayle, not seen, during their Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match in Bangalore, India, Tuesday, April 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Kolkata Knight Riders bowler Jacques Kallis, centre, celebrates after dismissing Bangalore batsman Chris Gayle. Photo: AP

According to Forbes, however, the franchise is still valued at $1.1bn, with net worth close to $85m and revenue topping $41m, while they signed fantasy sports app MyFab11 as principal partner in 2023 and BKT also extending for the 2023 edition.

As the pandemic hit, KKR was reportedly considering to invest in English cricket’s The Hundred — if the fledgling tournament opened up to private investment. That may still come to fruition given the competition’s current future and lack of appeal outside of England.

For now, KKR is continuing to look for its own global brand appeal. It is reportedly investing in a 10,000-capacity cricket stadium near Los Angeles ahead of Major League Cricket's 2023 launch in the US. The investment is likely to be in the range of $30m.

Did you know…

  • The KKR name is derived from the popular US TV series in the 1980s called Knight Rider.

  • Brendon McCullum bludgeoned 158* off 53 balls (with 13 sixes) against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural match of the first IPL in 2008. McCullum later stepped down as head coach after he took up the England's Test team head coach position.

  • KKR’s 2009 season — where they won once in the first 12 matches — was heightened by a blog called Fake IPL Player. Later revealed to be written by a Bangalore-based marketing expert, the popular blog seemed to have inside knowledge of team affairs while management reportedly banned player laptops.

What they say...

“We are perhaps the only genuine global brand in cricket and our strategy has always been to look at opportunities to invest in cricket globally.” Venky Mysore, Kolkata Knight Riders chief executive

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan displays the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket trophy during a news conference at his residence in Mumbai May 30, 2012. Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders team won the 2012 IPL after defeating Chennai Super Kings on May 27. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (INDIA - Tags: SPORT ENTERTAINMENT CRICKET)
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan displays the Indian Premier League trophy in 2012. Photo: Reuters

“When the tournament shifted to India, all the young players started to play so well. They all started playing better one after the other. This is how life is. I get really inspired by our KKR matches, and sometimes depressed also, but mostly inspired.” KKR co-owner Shah Rukh Khan

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