The six franchises of the Bangladesh Premier League were sold off in a trice.
In the hour-long bidding programme held at a local hotel in the city yesterday, only one franchise was sold at a significantly higher price than the base price while the others barely got off the ground.
The absence of big corporate houses was a point raised by the franchise owners though they hoped that the tournament will have a higher profile once it takes off next month.
The franchise owners are now in possession for six years though they can only sell it off after three years. The amount quoted for each team is the per year payment that will go to Game On Sports, the event management company in charge of the tournament.
Chittagong was acquired by SQ Sports for 1.2 million dollars (Tk 99,000,001), a value that beat Pearl Trading and Digital Auto Care easily as they offered 1.05 million dollars (Tk 86,703,741) and exactly a million dollars respectively. SQ Sports is a consortium of businessmen led by Dhaka Dyeing.
Chief financial officer of the buyer Ali Ahsan Mahbub confirmed the team name, which also participated in the Port City Cricket League two years ago. "Our team will be Chittagong Tigers. We also participated in the Chittagong Port City Cricket League previously," he said.
The second highest price offered for a franchise was for Khulna which was bought by Orion Group for 1.1 million dollars (Tk 90,832,364) while Digital Auto Care got a bargain for Rajshahi worth 1.07 million dollars (Tk 88,355,221).
Tanveer Islam of Orion Group said that the target is to become a popular team. "We want to have a team that can hopefully become a fan favourite. [Khulna's icon player] Shakib Al Hasan is not only one of the best players in the country but I would say he is the best player along with being a top all-rounder. We want to promote some of the young talent in Khulna," he said.
The Rajshahi owners have moved quickly to get their house in order as they have roped in former chief selector and ex-captain Faruque Ahmed as the manager and former opener Athar Ali Khan as its chief advisor. They will definitely make full use of former national captain Khaled Mashud, regarded as the most influential man in Rajshahi cricket.
Athar was confident that a good mix is possible for the division that is regarded as the best in the country when it comes to the sport. "I think we will have a good team with a proper combination of overseas players and home-grown talent, especially with the funds available," he said.
Managing director Mushfiqur Rahman Mohon has said that he will provide the financial backing for the think-tank. "Rajshahi Warriors chief advisor is Athar Ali Khan and team manager is Faruque Ahmed. My job is to provide the funds for these two gentlemen to manage. We have two coaches among whom one is our very own Khaled Mashud," he said.
A group of business houses led by Walton got Sylhet for 1.06 million dollars. The electronic goods company will stay the majority owners and have distributed the rest of the ownership among other parties.
The Dhaka franchise was picked up by Europa Group for 1.05 million dollars with the other bidders -- Digital Auto Care and Euro Impex -- offering the base price. This was a bit of a surprise given the prestige attached to the country's biggest division (as was the case when the teams were sold for the NCL T20s two years ago).
Europa Group director Shihab Chowdhury confirmed that they too have the services of a former national captain to form their side. "We are very happy and excited to get Dhaka as it is the capital and the most vibrant city. It will have the biggest fan base and the most games played there. We already have Habibul Bashar as our team consultant. He will be organising everything and helping build the team," he said.
Alif Group has taken the Barisal franchise for the lowest price -- 1.01 million dollars -- though it was a bit of a travesty as Southern International quoted 900,000 dollars which is less than the base price for a franchise.
The quotation of a price below the base indicated the lack of confidence among many about buying one of these franchises.