12 Oct 2010 12:00am IST
Cricket: Business trumps sports!
Oddly, Sunday’s meeting of the IPL Governing Council – which terminated the Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) franchises on charges of transgression of shareholding and ownership norms, while granting a last chance to the new Kochi franchise to put its house on order – was an emergency meeting. It was held five days before the deadline given to the three franchises to reply to show cause notices issued by the IPL lapsed.
What was the hurry?
Could it be because the bosses of the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) believe that the Punjab and Rajasthan franchises have a ‘benami’ shareholder in Lalit Modi, the disgraced former IPL chairman? It has long been whispered that he has proxy stakes in both, but this has never been proved.
Mr Modi’s brother-in-law – his wife Minal’s sister’s husband – Suresh Chellaram holds the largest stake in the Rajasthan Royals. His stepson-in-law, Gaurav Burman, has a stake in Kings XI, Punjab. Could Sunday’s purge be one last effort to totally exorcise the ghost of Lalit Modi from the IPL?
The BCCI’s case against the Rajasthan Royals is that the original bid document was signed by Manoj Badale, representing Emerging Media (IPL) Limited, a UK-based company. But its shares were held by Ranjit Barthakur and Fraser Castellino, the only shareholders representing Jaipur IPL Cricket Pvt Ltd, the firm which signed the franchise agreement on 31 March 2008. The BCCI says this violates the tender process.
Despite the franchise agreement stating that no change of control can occur in the first three years, the BCCI that in March 2008, Castellino transferred his half of the share capital to EM Sporting Holdings Ltd, Mauritius, and in January 2009, Barthakur transferred 4,999 shares to the Mauritius company and the remaining one share to Emerging Media (IPL) Ltd, UK, the original bidder.
In the case of Kings XI Punjab, the bidders were led by Bollywood star Preity Zinta, who was named chairperson of KPH Dream Cricket Pvt Ltd, the company which held the rights to the franchise. But the shares were held by ACEE Enterprises Pvt Ltd and Mohit Burman, which the BCCI says violates the tender process.
Further, says the BCCI, in May 2008, the two listed owners of KPH Dream Cricket, ACCE Enterprises and Mohit, transferred their shares to Dabur Investment Corp Ltd and Windy Investments Ltd. Then in June, Dabur and Windy’s stake dropped to 23 per cent, with Preity Zinta, Ness Wadia, Colway Investments Ltd, Karan Paul and Root Invest Pvt Ltd picking up the other 77 per cent.
These ‘blatant violations’, says the BCCI, gives it the right to terminate the franchises. This may or may not be true, but the so-called violations are from two years ago. Besides, some of the ownership changes, such as when Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty and her then boyfriend Raj Kundra bought into the Royals, were not surreptitious and very open. It simply cannot justify the extremely hasty manner in which this purge has been conducted. Besides, the IPL format was to expand to 10 teams after the third year, and there are millions of dollars that have been invested in the hope that more matches and teams will mean more income for the franchises. What happens when an eight-team IPL debuts once more in April?
The legality of these moves is suspect, even though the BCCI says it has taken legal opinion from the brightest brains in the land, including Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvaty (in his private capacity). With so much money at stake, there is bound to be a strong legal challenge. The last is yet to be written on this.
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