The curse of the IPL: A graveyard of corporate reputations
If Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, then the Indian Premier League (IPL) qualifies as the one that has seen many a corporate reputation being buried in ignominy
If Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, then the Indian Premier League (IPL) qualifies as the one that has seen many a corporate reputation being buried in ignominy.
Several high-profile IPL team owners, who were formidable tycoons, have bitten the dust, some have served jail terms, and a couple are on the run from the law.
It is not as if all these debacles happened because of their association with IPL, but controversies around their businesses have devoured several team owners (and sometimes, their teams).
Subroto Roy Sahara, Vijay Mallya, Venkat Ram Reddy, N. Srinivasan, Raj Kundra and Lalit Modi are the prime examples of IPL's record of scorching reputations.
The IPL has also seen the termination of teams and the suspension of two of its marquee franchises.
In March 2010, two new franchises -- Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers -- joined the League on the eve of the fourth season in 2011. Sahara Adventure Sports Group bought the Pune franchise for $370 million and Rendezvous Sports picked Kochi for $333.3 million.
But before the Tuskers could even play a match, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) terminated their contract in 2011 because of the team management's failure to pay the 10% bank guarantee element of the franchise fee.
Deccan Chargers, which was owned by the controversial media baron T. Venkat Ram Reddy and lifted the trophy in 2009, was terminated in September 2012 because it could not find new owners after the incumbent got mired in financial scandals, eventually leading to his arrest by the CBI in 2015.
Pune Warriors withdrew from the IPL in May 2013 over financial differences with the BCCI. Its contract, too, was terminated by the BCCI in October that year because it could not give bank guarantees.
Roy, meanwhile, got embroiled in a protracted dispute with the stock market regulator, SEBI, and ended up spending considerable time in Tihar Jail. He is now out on parole, with SEBI still hot on his heels.
In 2015, Chennai Super Kings, owned by India Cements helmed by the former international cricket overlord, N. Srinivasan, and Rajasthan Royals, which then belonged to the porn racket accused Raj Kundra and his wife, Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, were suspended for two seasons.
It happened after Delhi Police busted an alleged spot-fixing scandal, leading to the arrest of three Rajasthan Royals players -- Sreesanth, AjitChandila and Ankeet Chavan -- in 2013. They were subsequently exonerated and Sreesanth's life ban by the BCCI was revoked by the Supreme Court in 2021. Gurunath Meiyappan, Srinivasan's son-in-law and former Chennai Super Kings (CSK) 'team principal', was nabbed by Mumbai Police for betting. He was banned for life from all forms of cricket by the Supreme Court-appointed R.M. Lodha committee, which investigated the scandal that rocked Indian cricket. A similar ban was slapped on Kundra as well.
The Supreme Court, in fact, told Srinivasan in 2014 to step down from his position as BCCI president in order to ensure a fair investigation.
Vijay Mallya, originally at the helm of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), is a fugitive from Indian law. His bid of $111.6 million for the franchise was the second highest for a team, next only to that of the Reliance Industries' $111.9 million for the Mumbai Indians.
Today, Mallya's old company, United Spirits Limited, which is controlled by the international alcobev giant, Diageo, owns the majority stake in RCB.
The ownership of Rajasthan Royals, meanwhile, has passed from Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty to global venture capitalist Manoj Badale's Emerging Media IPL Ltd, which owns 65 per cent of the stock. The key minority stakeholders are the media baron Lachlan Murdock and RedBird Capital Partners.
Kundra, before he made headlines because of his alleged association with a porn app, was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in October 2019 in connection with his dealings with a real estate agent Ranjeet Bindra, who was arrested in a money laundering case involving drug lord Iqbal Mirchi.
But the man who was the original controversy magnet was the creator of IPL, Lalit Modi, son of industrialist Krishna Kumar Modi and Bina Modi, and President and Managing Director of Modi Enterprises.
Lionised by the media and hailed as the man who reinvented cricket, Modi's troubles began when in 2010 he alleged that the former Union minister (and present Thiruvananthapuram MP) Shashi Tharoor and his late wife Sunanda Pushkar had indirectly held free equity in Kochi Tuskers.
With the row ballooning out of control, shortly after IPL 2010 ended, Modi was suspended from the BCCI after being accused of misconduct, indiscipline and financial irregularities.
In the same fateful year, Modi claimed on Twitter that New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns had been involved in match-fixing in 2008. Cairns successfully sued Modi for making false statements and won $950,000 in damages in March 2012, but it was a mere blip in his chequered career. Modi was soon mired in a slew of charges that had been levelled against him.
The BCCI launched an investigation against him and banned him for life in 2013 after a committee, led by the Board's then vice-president (and later the country's finance minister), the late Arun Jaitley, found him guilty on eight charges made against him. Other members of the committee were current Civil Aviation Minister JyotiradityaScindia and the pharma billionaire Chirayu Amin.
The charges ranged from granting favours to members of his extended family and friends to planning a rival cricket league in association with clubs in England.
Just before ED launched an investigation against Modi for alleged of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), and failed to get Interpol to issue a red corner notice against him, he moved to London, where he continues to live.
Last known, ED's case against Modi was being heard by the Bombay High Court.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)