The effort to form a professional cricket league in the U.S. gets a major boost today as 26 investors have signed on as the initial backers of Major League Cricket. The new league, which looks to launch in 2022, will officially announce them later today. Among the founding group are Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft and part owner of the Seattle Sounders Major League Soccer club, and Ross Perot, Jr., the billionaire chairman of Hillwood Development Co. and son of the former presidential candidate. The investors join Major League Cricket’s first disclosed investor, Knight Riders, an investment group owned in part by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Sportico first reported the Knight Riders investment in November.
“I think people will be pleasantly surprised that such a prominent and complex group of individuals have come together to introduce a sport into a country in this fashion,” Vijay Srinivasan, co-founder of Major League Cricket, said in a phone call last week. “They come from different backgrounds, but the common thing that unifies them is their passion for the game.”
The American pro circuit will play Twenty20 cricket, a slimmed-down version of the sport that takes place over three hours. The T20 league will feature international cricket stars as well as homegrown players. American Cricket Enterprises, MLC’s parent company, expects to launch a minor league cricket division in 2021 to help find homegrown talent. It recently agreed to renovate a baseball stadium outside Dallas into a cricket ground.
The initial Major League Cricket investor group includes a number of other successful business people, if less commonly known than Khan, Nadella and Perot. Among them is Shantanu Narayen, the CEO and chairman of Adobe; SQN hedge fund manager Amish Mehta; former WhatsApp chief business officer Neeraj Arora; and Subrah Iyar, who founded WebEx and is an investor in Zoom Video Communications.
Investment amounts aren’t disclosed, though ballpark figures for ACE’s early pro league fundraising needs have been put in the $60 million to $75 million range.
T20 cricket was developed in the U.K. in 2003 and has exploded in popularity since, fostering pro leagues in India, England, the Caribbean and elsewhere. To accommodate national team cricket schedules, T20 seasons generally take place in bursts of 60 games over two months each year. The U.S. league likely will take place in late summer after the Indian Premier League has its season, allowing for international players to come stateside.