Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft and a part-owner of the Seattle Sounders franchise in Major League Soccer, has been announced as a lead investor in a $44 million Series A and A1 fundraising round by Major League Cricket (MLC), the six-team franchise T20 competition sanctioned by USA Cricket through its commercial partner ACE, which is targeted to launch in 2023.
According to a press release issued by MLC on Wednesday, another $76 million has been pledged by investors for a total of $120 million to be utilised primarily for stadium infrastructure projects over the next several years. “The significant funding committed by an outstanding group of investors will allow Major League Cricket to build first-class facilities and accelerate the sport’s development across the country, bringing world-class professional cricket to the world’s largest sports market,” said Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan, co-founders of Major League Cricket, through a press release. “This investor group comprises leading business executives and successful tech entrepreneurs who have led some of the world’s most prominent companies. They bring tremendous experience and expertise in support of MLC’s plans to launch a transformative Twenty20 league and establish America as one of the world’s leading homes for international cricket events.”
Nadella and S. Somasegar, also a part-owner of Seattle Sounders and a former long-time senior Vice President at Microsoft who is currently the Managing Director of venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, are majority investors based out of Seattle. It is there that a new stadium venue project is being spearheaded at Marymoor Park in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, Washington. When that venue is complete, it is expected to be the home of one of the six anchor franchises for MLC.
“I share the vision Major League Cricket has for the launch of a world-class T20 cricket league and the potential for the United States to become one of the leading cricket nations in the world,” Somasegar said. “I am delighted to be part of a dynamic group of investors who will help the sport reach that level through an unprecedented commitment of resources by MLC to developing the sport.”
Ross Perot Jr and Anurag Jain, the founders of Dallas-based venture capital firm Perot Jain, are also among the investors listed in the latest round of fundraising. Airhogs Stadium, a former minor league baseball facility in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas that was the first venue acquired for redevelopment by ACE and MLC in 2020, will also become the home of another MLC franchise.
“The ceiling for cricket’s growth in the United States is incredibly high, with the passion for the game at the grassroots level I’ve observed in Texas proof of its potential,” Jain said. “I am proud to be part of a group of investors committed to rapidly accelerating cricket’s progress through Major League Cricket. The plans MLC have laid out to develop infrastructure and build a foundation for professional cricket to thrive nationwide put the sport on a tremendous trajectory and I am excited to support this vision.”
Among the other headline investors recruited by MLC are Anand Rajaraman and Venky Harinarayan, the founding partners at Millways Ventures and Rocketship VC; Sanjay Govil, the founder of Infinite Computer Solutions and CEO of Zyter; the Baheti Family, the owners of YASH Technologies; and Tanweer Ahmed, the CEO of PAK Foods and the owner of the Prairie View Cricket Complex, the largest turf wicket complex in America located 50 miles northwest of Houston which opened in 2019 and has been regularly used to host USA Cricket national championship tournaments. As part of Ahmed’s PAK Foods brand, the entrepreneur and cricket enthusiast owns more than 200 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchises spread between Texas, Colorado and Las Vegas.
Although not listed in Wednesday’s release, the Knight Riders Group had previously been announced as one of the original lead investors in MLC. They have recently pledged their commitment toward helping to fund the development of a $30 million facility at Great Park in Irvine, California, which will be the home of the future Knight Riders franchise in MLC.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that the other three MLC anchor franchise locations for the league’s targeted launch date in 2023 are expected to be in San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC. However, there are currently no turf wicket venues located in the two east coast locations as MLC officials continue to pursue options with regards to land acquisition and venue development in those territories.