IMG, Reliance Industries form joint venture

To create management agency for Bollywood, sport, fashion

NEW DELHI -- Global sports and celebrity management major IMG has pacted with Mumbai-headquartered Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) to form equal joint venture IMG Reliance according to a joint statement Sunday.

In addition to focusing on core activities in sports, IMG Reliance plans to "create India's first Super Agency which will offer 360 degree management to celebrities from the worlds of sport, Bollywood, fashion and which will develop, own and operate assets in these sectors. One of India's biggest conglomerates with a net worth of $24.92 billion, RIL is promoted by billionaire Mukesh Ambani and is a separate group from the one run by his younger brother Anil Ambani who heads Reliance ADAG which owns Reliance Big Entertainment (DreamWorks' equal partner).

The two brothers carved out the Reliance group in 2006 after the death of their father and the group's founding chairman Dhirubhai Ambani in 2002. RIL's core activites relate to petroleum products while RADAG focuses on power, telecom, finance and media, among other areas.

According to the statement IMG Reliance "will have parallel complementary strategies: to provide and operate world class infrastructure and coaching facilities in the country to unlock India's sporting potential and; to create and operate major sports and entertainment assets in the country."

The senior management teams of the two partners are headed by RIL chairman and MD Mukesh Ambani and IMG chairman and CEO Ted Forstmann.

IMG has been in active in India for over a decade and runs sports and fashion properties such as Aircel Chennai Open -- India's Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour event -- and Lakme Fashion Week, which will be transferred to the joint venture. One of IMG's major initiatives was to develop a model for the Indian Premier League for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which saw IMG conducting the first team franchise sale process which raised $724m.

RIL's sporting forays include its ownership of IPL team Mumbai Indians. However, "IMG's responsibilities to the BCCI for IPL will not transfer to the joint venture and will continue to be managed by IMG's international business and executive team," according to the statement.

IMG's India joint venture follows its earlier expansion drive in China in 2008 where the group inked an exclusive 20-year deal with China's national television broadcaster for developing and marketing new sports events.

Among its plans, IMG Reliance will work under the auspices of RIL's The Reliance Foundation to promote world class sporting academies with the support of IMG's Florida-based IMG Academies (IMGA), one of the world's leading sporting and educational institutions.

"With IMG's five decade experience, we are embarking on an exciting journey to transform the sporting fabric in the country. Our JV company will actively work with like minded organizations and invest in developing immensely talented young Indians," said Ambani.

Added Forstmann, "IMG is delighted to be joining forces with RIL, the most important company in India... As a consequence, the commercial performance of sport and entertainment in India will be enhanced. IMG firmly believes that in order to build valuable commercial sports, entertainment and media assets it is at first essential to address infrastructural, coaching and accessibility challenges. This joint venture will address these challenges and in time, we anticipate, benefit from the commercial growth that follows."