MS Dhoni signs Rs 200 crore deal with Rhiti Sports

Dark Sorrow

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Mar 24, 2009
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NEW DELHI: With the trademark speed that he runs his singles, scores his fifties and well... married recently, MS Dhoni has presented himself a wedding gift worth nearly Rs 200 crore in an endorsement and talent management deal that took him past Sachin Tendulkar in the corporate contract sweepstakes.

The India cricket captain, also the country's most expensive sportsman, has snapped up a three-year deal with sports and talent management firms Rhiti Sports Management and Mindscapes One, said two persons familiar with the development.

The companies, through a joint venture, will manage Dhoni's long list of endorsements and brand associations, corporate profile, patents and digital rights, images, visibility on social networking sites and merchandise, they said.

Tendulkar held the corporate contract crown earlier, thanks to a Rs 180 crore deal with sports management firm Iconix for three years in 2006.

Rhiti Sports is headed by Arun Pandey, a confidant and business associate of Dhoni, while Mindscapes One is owned by Pratik Sen, who has been managing the cricketer's endorsements for more than a year.

Sangeet Shirodkar, a familiar face in the sports management space, has been appointed as marketing president of the JV, the persons said.

Dhoni apart, Rhiti Sports manages cricketers RP Singh and Harbhajan Singh.

Pandey and Sen could not be reached for comment.

Rhiti and Mindscapes have trumped a handful of companies to enlist the popular cricketer, a darling of endorsement companies and brands. Dhoni charges up to Rs 6 crore an endorsement a year and is associated with 22 brands such as PepsiCo, Reebok, Aircel, Godrej and Hersheys.

At least nine talent management firms such as IMG, Percept Group, Sunil Gavaskar-promoted PMG, World Sport Group, Purple People and Planman Consulting had vied with each other last month to sign up Dhoni.

An agency gets a fee of up to 30% of the total endorsement charges of a celebrity it manages.

With the World Cup due to be held in the Indian subcontinent next year and several international series coming up, a rash of companies are learnt to be keen to rope in Dhoni. Corporates that sell products riding on the cricketer's popularity too are looking to renew contracts.

Dhoni earned $10 million last year, which made him top a list of the world's highest-grossing cricketers, said a Forbes magazine report. He earned $8 million from endorsements, said the report, adding that his campaigns were 45% more expensive than other players.

Mindscapes has been managing Dhoni's endorsements to date while his digital rights were split between several agencies.

Dhoni ended a long-running deal with sports management firm Gameplan Sports two years ago. Last year, he formally joined Mindscapes Maestros along with three promoters. But internal differences cropped up between the owners, resulting in one quitting the company. At the time Mindscapes was floated, there was intense speculation that Dhoni had come on board as an advisor.

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