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Cricket Might Be Next Sports Deal Frenzy With Sale of Hampshire

Cricket Might Be Next Sports Deal Frenzy With Sale of Hampshire
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: James Vince of Hampshire celebrates taking the wicket of Jordan Clark of Surrey with his team mates during the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1 match between Hampshire and Surrey at Ageas Bowl on September 29, 2023 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Surrey CCC)

The owner of one of England’s top cricket clubs is in talks with potential bidders, the latest sign of growing investor interest in the sport outside the big-money league in India.

Rod Bransgrove, a former pharmaceuticals entrepreneur, is in discussions about selling Hampshire Cricket Club, a spokesperson for the club’s parent company said. Dialog has opened with several organizations, and the company has been examining a range of options, the spokesperson added, when asked whether Bransgrove could retain a stake in the club.

Hampshire, which finished third in last season’s County Championship First Division and counts Prime Minister Rishi Sunak among its fans, is the latest English club to receive interest from prospective investors.

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Funding talks are continuing at rival Yorkshire County Cricket Club, which is owned by its members. Retailer Mike Ashley, the former owner of Newcastle United football club, is said to be the front runner to provide funding through a sale and leaseback of the stadium worth about £23 million ($28.7 million), according to a person familiar with the talks.

An Indian company is interested in a sale and leaseback on similar terms to Ashley, the person said. A franchise from the lucrative Indian Premier League is also in discussions with Yorkshire about a possible commercial deal that will not include a takeover.

Bransgrove arrived at Hampshire on England’s south coast in 2000 with the club on the brink of bankruptcy, turning around its fortunes after investing about £15 million of his own money. He had made his fortune from selling his Hampshire-based business, Imperial Pharmaceuticals Services, to Shire Plc in 1995.

The 73-year-old announced plans in the summer to step down at the end of this year as chairman of the club, which was founded in 1863. He owns a majority stake in Hampshire, which became the first non-member-owned county club after he rescued it. In 2020, Bransgrove said he had fielded interest from potential investors from India, Asia and France about buying a stake in the club, but no deal materialized.

Under his ownership, Hampshire’s ground, the Ageas Bowl, was transformed into an international venue and was named as one of the five to host an Ashes Test match against Australia in 2027. The stadium held a number of matches during Covid-19 because it has a built-in Hilton hotel and other facilities tBloomberg’s Business of Sportshat made it a suitable venue for hosting teams amid strict pandemic protocols.

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