New Delhi It's almost curtains for the Kochi franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL).While last-minute talks to salvage the consortium are still on between the promoters and the investors, both sides have indicated that the chances of a compromise are bleak.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is also learnt to have sounded out the next highest bidder, Videocon Industries, to be ready to get back into the game in the place of the Kochi consortium.
The bid by the consortium led by Rendezvous Sports World Pvt Ltd that won the franchise in April was haunted by controversies. Mentored by former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, the Rendezvous consortium bid $333 million for the Kochi team. While the minister himself didn't own a stake in the consortium, his then girlfriend, and now, wife, Sunanda Pushkar owned a 5 per cent free equity in it.
The consortium beat Videocon ($320 million) and the Adani Group of Industries
($315 million), allegedly favoured and backed by two high-profile Union ministers. Former commissioner of IPL Lalit Modi was also opposed to the Rendezvous consortium's entry into IPL. This led to the conflict that finally saw both Tharoor and Modi making unceremonious exits from their respective positions.
The problem, sources say, began when Tharoor distanced himself from the consortium and Pushkar gave up her equity following the controversy. According to sources in the two warring groups, the promoters, including the Gaikwad family that owns Rendezvous Sports, enjoyed investors' support for as long as Tharoor was in the picture. Once the minister pulled out, the investors started clamouring for the control of the venture.
The investors insisted that the promoters pay up for 15 per cent of the promised 20 per cent free equity. “We, along with Sunanda, made all efforts to float the venture. We bid for the team and won it. At the unincorporated stage, we had been promised a free equity of 20 per cent but at the time we were going to register the venture, a group of investors said we will get only 5 per cent free equity and will have to pay for the rest. Failing this, we were told, the investors led by the Anchor Group will take over the venture,” said a senior member of the promoter group.
The Anchor Group owns 27 per cent in the unincorporated Rendezvous Sports Pvt Ltd, the company that won the franchise. The other investors are: Parinee Developers (26 per cent), Film Waves Combine (12 per cent), Anand Shyam (8 per cent), Vivek Venugopal (1 per cent) and Rendezvous (1 per cent).
The promoters, meanwhile, are not willing to cede the control of the venture. While the two camps were still talking to each other, both sides indicated that the chances of a mutually acceptable solution were dim. “We are trying to find a solution..,” said Venugopal, one of the investors.
“We are ready to give up the franchise..,” said a senior member of the promoter group. Meanwhile, the BCCI, which had already given the consortium a notice to get its act together, has sounded out Videocon Industries, the second highest bidder in the second round of the auction for two new IPL teams. “They (BCCI) asked us if we are still interested in picking up a team. We told them we are ready,” said a senior executive of the company. Sources said a decision on the consortium's future is likely in the BCCI's meeting this week.