Sachin Tendulkar Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Indian Super League (ISL) club Kerala Blasters have dismissed reports as ‘speculation’ that UAE-based hypermarket chain Lulu have bought the franchise from cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and his partners.

Media reports yesterday suggested Hyderabad-based media and entertainment firm Prasad Group, who hold an 80 per cent share in the franchise along with Tendulkar (who owned the other 20 per cent) were about to make way for Lulu Group International run by Kerala billionaire Yusuf Ali M.A.

When contacted by Gulf News, Kerala Blasters chief executive officer Tarun Tripuraneni released a statement that admitted Tendulkar was selling his stake, but only to the other existing majority shareholders. “The existing 80 per cent of KBFC comprising of IQuest, Mr Chiranjeevi and Mr Allu Aravind have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Sachin Tendulkar’s 20 per cent stake in the club,” the statement from Kerala Blasters read.

“Any other news regarding the shareholding is purely speculative in nature. Sachin has been a great support and we thank him for his immense contribution to KBFC. He will forever be a member of the Yellow Army.

“As it has been, we will continue to uphold and take forward, the spirit of the sport, spirit of the fans and the spirit of Kerala.”

Tendulkar had been involved in the club since the formation of the ISL in 2014 with former founding shareholder Prasad Potluri of PVP Ventures. Potluri sold his stake to Nimmagadda Prasad’s Prasad Group in 2015. Film stars Chiranjeevi, Akkineni Nagarjuna and film producer Allu Aravind were also involved in that initial takeover.

Gulf News also contacted representatives of both Lulu and the ISL, both of whom refused to comment about the proposed Lulu deal. Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group International was founded in 2000, and has more than 150 stores across the GCC region, with an annual turnover of over $6.9 billion (Dh25 billion).

Plans galore

As well as owning India’s largest mall, in Kochi, they also have plans to invest another $2 billion in Yusuf Ali M.A.’s home country of India across food, hospitality and retail sectors.

Kerala Blasters were two-time ISL runners-up in 2014 and 2016, finishing second to Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC respectively. On the other two occasions in 2015 and 2017, they failed to make the finals, finishing eighth and sixth.

Former England and Liverpool goalkeeper David James is their current coach and that along with their current roster, is unlikely to change ahead of their first game away to Kolkata on September 29.

Although the current squad isn’t star-studded, the Blasters boasted the likes of former Manchester United stars Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov last season.

This is the second UAE-based firm to have bought an Indian football club after Dodsal Group’s acquisition of I-League side Mumbai Tigers FC in 2012. Rajen Kilachand’s Dubai-headquartered construction and engineering conglomerate had plans to take on Asia, but the club was dissolved two years later.