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IPL: Chennai Super Kings, the power franchise led by MS Dhoni

Business of IPL

Yahoo Finance UK
VISAKHAPATNAM, INDIA - MAY 10: MS Dhoni of the Chennai Super Kings hits out during the Indian Premier League IPL Qualifier Final match between the Delhi Capitals and the Chennai Super Kings at ACA-VDCA Stadium on May 10, 2019 in Visakhapatnam, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
MS Dhoni of the Chennai Super Kings hits out during the Indian Premier League in 2019. Photo: Getty Images (Robert Cianflone via Getty Images)

Twice India Premier League (IPL) champions in the last five years, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are the most consistent team in the world’s most lucrative T20 cricket competition. Since the league's inception, they are also one of the biggest money spinners alongside the IPL itself.

Marshalled by Indian icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni and backed by one of India's largest cement producers, star-studded CSK have reached the play-offs in 11 of their 13 seasons in the IPL and are four-time champions.

In this 16th edition, CSK are playing a full season on home turf for the first time in four years as they look to overturn a disappointing ninth-place finish in 2022.

Star players

Ben Stokes – England

Ben Stokes of Chennai Super Kings takes the catch to dismiss Deepak Hooda of Lucknow Super Giants during the Indian Premier League cricket match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Lucknow Super Giants in Chennai, India, Monday, April 3, 2023. (AP Photo/ R. Parthibhan)
Ben Stokes takes a catch during the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants in Chennai. Photo: AP (R. Parthibhan, Associated Press)

Ben Stokes was purchased by CSK for $1.98 million (£1.58m) in December’s IPL auction. Three IPL teams had bid for England’s captain before CSK came in late to seal his services, as he became the third joint –highest price tag in the IPL. Billed as a potential long-term captain at CSK.

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MS Dhoni – India

The highest-paid athlete in India a decade ago, the 41-year-old wicketkeeper still attracts millions of eyeballs for his batting prowess and showmanship (even if it is with short cameos these days).

Read More: Meet the British owner of IPL champions Gujarat Titans

Dhoni has led CSK to their four IPL triumphs while he blasted two successive sixes in CSK’s first home match at the start of the 2023 edition. It drew in 17 million viewers on IPL digital broadcaster Jio Cinema – the highest in IPL 2023 so far.

Behind the CSK brand

Businessman N. Srinivasan is considered one of the most powerful figures in Indian cricket history. A former International Cricket Council chairman and president of the BCCI, the governing body for cricket in India, Srinivasan has held sway as CSK’s owner since 2008.

Indian cricket board (BCCI) President N. Srinivasan speaks to the media during a news conference in Kolkata May 26, 2013. Mumbai Police apprehended Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, a key official of the Indian Premier League's (IPL) Chennai franchise, late on Friday in connection with a spot-fixing scandal that has also led to the arrest of three cricketers. Former India test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two other local cricketers were arrested last week on suspicion of taking money to concede a fixed number of runs and police have intensified investigations to discover the extent of the scandal.  REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri (INDIA - Tags: SPORT CRICKET CRIME LAW)
N. Srinivasan speaks to the media during a news conference in Kolkata May 26, 2013. Photo: Reuters (Rupak De Chowdhuri / reuters)

The CSK franchise is owned by India Cements Limited (INDIACEM.NS) – the ninth largest listed cement company in India by revenue, with Srinivasan as managing director – through the Chennai Super Kings Cricket Limited holding company. It was formed in 2014 and registered as a non-governmental company.

The Super Kings are now expanding their portfolio outside of the IPL.

CSK have invested in Dallas-based franchise Texas Super Kings in the United States’ new Major League Cricket, the tournament slated to begin on 13 July. It is the second overseas purchase for CSK’s owners, who also back a SA20 team in the South Africa T20 league. New Zealander Stephen Fleming is coach of all three franchises.

Watch: Grand homecoming for CSK in 2018

Amid all the highs for CSK, there was a two-year low in 2015 when the franchise was suspended from the IPL for two seasons after official Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of Srinivasan, was suspended for life after a betting and spot-fixing scandal and bringing the IPL into disrepute. Rajasthan Royals were also suspended.

Several pivotal CSK players moved to other IPL teams during that time while the controversy and subsequent lawsuit saw the team's brand value dip to $67m (£54m) in 2015, according to the International Institute for Management Development.

The money spinners

The only IPL franchisee whose shares are on offer in the unlisted market, CSK’s stock has risen considerably over the years along with its fan and social engagement.

In January 2022, ahead of the last IPL edition, Super Kings became India’s first sports Unicorn – a privately held start-up company valued at over $1bn – a market cap in private equity more than its parent owner India Cements. This was heightened after its last IPL title win in Dubai and the emergence of new IPL franchisees.

The badge of the Chennai Super Kings on an outer wall of the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, India.
The badge of the Chennai Super Kings on an outer wall of the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, India. (Stuart Forster India)

According to Forbes India, CSK’s enterprise value (EV) is now around $960m (£769m), while capital market analysts believe that the Chennai-based team will see their revenue jump by 124.9% for this year’s IPL.

With overall TV rights for the IPL sold for a record $6.02bn (£5.13bn) for the next five years, CSK will also benefit from its own digital media rights. It is reported that CSK will reap around $620m for 2023-2027 from companies wanting to use Super Kings' content.

On the playing front, Dhoni is reportedly the highest-earning player in IPL history, with total earnings taken to INR 176 crore ($21.4m) after being retained by CSK for the 2023 season.

Did you know...

  • Dhoni, who now comes in at number eight for CSK, has produced some eye-catching, magical stats when at the crease in the 20th and final over of his IPL career. At the start of 2023, he had notched nearly 700 runs, blasting 55 sixes and 49 fours.

Chennai Super Kings batsman MS Dhoni runs during a Group B match of The Champions League T20 (CLT20) against Sydney Sixers at Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on October 14, 2012.
 AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GettyImages)
MS Dhoni is a fans' favourite at Chennai Super Kings. Photo: AFP/GettyImages (ALEXANDER JOE via Getty Images)
  • At IPL 2011, CSK won all their home games and became the first IPL franchise to do so.

  • Companies wanting a slice of CSK continued apace ahead of the 2023 season when Garuda Aerospace became the official drone partner for the 2023 season. Dhoni holds a stake in the company.

What they have said on CSK...

"Brand CSK will outgrow Brand India Cements. If you look at the history of franchise-based leagues in the US, it will outgrow everything. Passion for cricket is so much in India. The road between countries will see franchise-based leagues getting the precedence as we go along." N Srinivasan, CSK owner

“The CSK and Dhoni brand go hand-in-hand, having gone through rough patches after which they bounced back. There can be no CSK without Dhoni… his leadership and consistency have been the key.” Bhairav Shanth, of sports sponsorship outfit ITW Consulting

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