SpiceJet owner Ajay Singh to take control of NDTV
As NDTV founders Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy and promoter RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd face a probe for allegedly concealing transactions, the channel is set to be handed over to a new owner. SpiceJet owner Ajay Singh, the man who coined the signature "Abki Baar Modi Sarkaar" phrase, is set to buy majority stake in the channel. Reports say Singh will have all editorial rights.
NDTV has been under ED and I-T investigation since 2014. Cases against it include receiving foreign funds and settling for 80% less; and not announcing a 2009 'change in control' of the company. In July, the ITAT indicted Prannoy Roy for money laundering of Rs. 642cr. It claimed that during 2007-10, NDTV laundered Rs. 1,100cr with help from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
When Roy's premises were raided earlier, NDTV called it an attempt to "blatantly undermine democracy and free speech in India". "NDTV and its promoters will fight tirelessly against this witch-hunt by multiple agencies," it said.
Sources say Ajay Singh will now have controlling stake in NDTV of around 40%; Prannoy and Radhika Roy will hold about 20%. He will also pick up NDTV's debts of over Rs. 400cr. The whole deal is estimated at Rs. 600cr, of which up to Rs. 100cr will go to the Roys. A SpiceJet official has called the reports "absolutely false and baseless".
Singh is SpiceJet's White Knight who turned around the struggling company to a profit-making machine. When he took control in 2015 (by paying just Rs. 2 to Kalanithi Maran!), it was Rs. 3,500cr in debt. About 2.5 years after its deepest crisis, SpiceJet has now become one of the best-performing airline stocks globally. As of July'17, his holding in SpiceJet was worth Rs. 4,400cr.
NDTV is one of the few media houses that have been critical of the Modi government. Its face Ravish Kumar, among others, is admired by many for his fiery journalism. With the BJP strongman's entry, its editorial policy can be expected to undergo an overhaul. It won't be a surprise if Kumar and others quit. Meanwhile, the channel continues to fight serious money-laundering charges.