The high-profile Indian Premier League on Thursday received overwhelming response as India's top industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya, and film stars Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta won bids to own teams in the Twenty20 venture.
After much suspense, Board of Control for Cricket in India vice-president and IPL governing council chairman Lalit Modi named the winning bidders, who shelled out staggering amounts to become owners of the Mumbai-based teams.
Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani pipped Vijay Mallya in the bid for the Mumbai team, for US $111.9 million.
The liquor baron, however, won the bid for the Bangalore team, for US $111.6 million.
Actor Shah Rukh Khan, joining hands with Juhi Chawla and Jay Mehta, won the bid for the Kolkata team, for US $75.09 million.
Fellow-actor Preity Zinta and her boy friend Ness Wadia won the bid for the Mohali team, for US $76 million.
Among others, GMR Holdings was successful in bidding for the Delhi team (US $84 million), while India Cements bagged the Chennai team (US $91 million), Deccan Chronicle the Hyderabad (US $107.01 million) outfit and Emerging Media the Jaipur team, for US $67 million.
The bids of ICICI, Sahara and Futures Group were disqualified, Modi said.
"We can say that all the hard work fructified and the IPL is here to stay," Modi said.
Asked if Shah Rukh was bidding just to use cricket as a means to promote his films, Modi replied, "Shah Rukh loves cricket and that's why he invested his money. It has got nothing to do with film promotion.
"We have heard a similar complaint in the past but the Board never endorsed those views," he added.
He also dismissed suggestions that there was a conflict of interests in Indian Cements, which has BCCI treasurer N Srinivasan as a shareholder, becoming a team owner.
"Mr Srinivasan is just a stakeholder there and he is not the owner. So there is no such conflicts of interests," he said.
Modi admitted that some of the contracted international players would skip the twenty20 tournament, which begins on April 18 owing to national commitments, but said the pool of players is big enough.
"A team needs only four players from abroad and we already have a huge number of them contracted with us. You will have enough of them from the day one," he said.
In all, 59 matches will be played over 44 days, with ICC umpires officiating the games that will be broadcast live on SET Max.
"We already have 80 contracted players and their auction would start soon. Each franchise will consult with the IPL Governing Council before naming the teams and discussing revenue sharing," Modi said.
ICC's anti-doping and anti-corruption units will also keep an eye on the Twenty20 league, he added.
Asked if the base price of US $50 million was too high, he replied, "It's up to the bidders to decide if the base price was high. Since the winning bid proved much more than the base price, you can't really say that it was too high."
Schedules and operational guidelines of the league will be announced later.
Stung by the Essel Group-backed Indian Cricket League, the BCCI had announced the IPL to counter the rebel venture, which has left many state teams depleted.
New Zealand has also suffered a lot as six Kiwi players joined the ICL and pace spearhead Shane Bond too is ready to take the plunge.The following are the bid amounts:
Vijay Mallya - US $111.6 million, for the Bangalore team.
Shah Rukh Khan - US $75.09 million, for the Kolkata team.
GMR Holdings - US $84 million, for the Delhi team.
Mukesh Ambani - US $111.9 million, for the Mumbai team.
India Cements - US $91 million, for the Chennai team.
Deccan Chronicle - US $107.01 million, for the Hyderabad team.
Emerging Media - US $67 million, for the Jaipur team.
Preity Zinta - US $76, for the Mohali team.