May 14, 2021
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'Take $50 million And Walk Away'

'Take $50 million And Walk Away'

 The Tharoor V/s Modi saga has clearly a whole lot more to reveal than meets the eye. First, it was an allegation by Jacob Joseph, Shashi Tharoor's officer on special duty (OSD) who had alleged that "[Lalit] Modi had asked the consortium to quote a price of $297 million for the bid. "He had no business to suggest this. We did not go by that because we knew that the eventual price would be much higher. In hindsight, we know that he was trying to scuttle our chances."   The Tharoor-backed consortium eventually won the rights for Kochi franchise for $333 million.

Now it finds an echo in an aptly titled column, Of intrigue and arm-twisting in high places, by Aditi Phadnis in the Business Standard:

RSW {The Tharoor-backed Kochi franchise] got the first inkling that something was not quite kosher when they got a message that their bid should be below $300 million. They consulted among themselves and kept the bid at $333 million (Rs 1,533 crore). Sahara bid $370 million (Rs 1,702 crore). Videocon’s bid was $320 million, Adani bid $315 million. Theirs was the closest and they got the franchise.

The members wanted to pop the cork. Too early, cautioned their leader. Get the letter of franchise first. They met IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi in Delhi. The daughter of one of the ministers was present in the room. This was when suggestions were made that they should take $50 million and walk away.

The group was first amused, then flummoxed. “Suppose we walk,” asked one, “who is going to give us $50 million?”

An investment banker, was the laconic reply.

“Come on,” said the leader. “I am an investment banker. I know no one will pay this order of money.”

“A client of an investment banker,” they were told.

The group conferred among themselves and said prestige was involved. “We won’t go,” they said.

The article suggests that the Kochi franchise has now sought protection from none other than Sonia Gandhi. But, the article also underlines the "clash between two groups of “very clever people" both with clear conflict of interest:

“The conflict of interest in Lalit Modi’s case is clear: His son-in-law has been given web advertising rights and his brother-in-law has a team. And, in Shashi Tharoor’s case, the woman whom he is going to marry has been given free equity worth Rs 75 crore today but it could be worth Rs 500 crore a few years from now. And, when you look at it, the minister of state in charge of the Middle East also has 100 per cent of his business in the Middle East: does that sound like propriety?” asked a member of the BCCI governing council.

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