September 19, 2020
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Biz Buzz

A new column on wheelers and dealers, bulls and bears, thrills and spills, movers, shakers and the money-makers.

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Biz Buzz

Oil Slick Ranjan!

With the tehelka tapes wreaking havoc, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is under virtual seige. And who is the man everyone wants more details about? No surprises here: it's Ranjan Bhattacharya, who is currently keeping an extremely low profile. Why? Because it's not power deals (as mentioned on the tehelka tapes) with which many are trying to link the Prime Minister's foster son-in-law but with murky oil deals. There is enough talk in the corridors of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas that it was Bhattacharya who helped Indian Oil director Subir Raha manage the Chairman and Managing Director's post of cash-rich Oil and Natural Gas
Corporation (ONGC). Is it just wild rumours? Perhaps not, because Raha will be the first ever non-technical person to assume the mantle of CMD of an upstream organisation. Raha's expertise — surprisingly enough — is in human respources (HR) and public relations (PR)! Interestingly, the lobbying by Bhattacharya was so strong that apparently, two of the candidates (Director-General—Hydrocarbons Avinash Chandra and ONGC Videsh CMD Atul Chandra) did not even go for the customary interview with the Public Services Enterprises Board (PSEB), saying (in separate notes to the PMO) that it was futile since the outcome was pre-determined.

Reality Bites Zee

Will PoW be ZeeTV's answer to Star TV's KBC? Insiders say yes. Zee TV will start shooting the serial sometime next month on the outskirts of Mumbai where they are constructing a huge prison. The serial, which has enough dosages from the Hollywood classic The Great Escape, will be on air in the second week of May. Volunteers will be incarcerated in the jail and asked to escape in this, the first Indian reality TV show. There's more: Zee's now again hunting for a CEO (with complete control of all 15 channels) and a new announcement is likely soon. This portly person apparently heads one of the top advertising agencies and is based in Mumbai. What happens then to the high-profile R K Singh, who had managed to edge Deepak Shourie out of Zee Telefilms and remained at the helm of affairs?

Friends Of Bull

Who says Ketan Parekh is down and out? The bull operator, who brought down the Bombay Stock Exchange by allegedly artificially rigging prices of  some selected scrips, has recently floated a club that's appropriately
 titled Friends of Ketan Parekh (remember a similar one when Harshad Mehta was in the dock?). Insiders claim the club will soon host a few carnivals and theme parties to tell everyone exactly the opposite of what they have been thinking about Parekh and his activities.

Packer's Funda Gol

Kerry Packer is an angry man. Why? Because he feels that the Indian media manipulated stock prices of Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL) by writing nice things about the controversial company and, as a result, he was forced to pick up the shares at a huge rate. So the latest rocket has already come from the Packer office for Channel 9's India chapter. And what is it? That they must not even accept any proposals for
programmes on DD2's Gold Hour. And yes, please market all programmes aggressively to raise in-house funds. Does this mean Packer will slow down funds? Who knows, especially when losses for the Indian operations have touched a staggering $30 million.

Deepak Shourie Back In Business?

Mumbai circles are abuzz with the news that former Zee CEO Deepak Shourie got only Rs 4 crore as his separation compensation package from Subhas Goyal as compared to his demand of Rs 40 crores! Interestingly, Shourie — after his unceremonious exit from Zee — had told journalists that he was sure of the fat compensation package and was contemplating a cool chill-out period till March-end. There were rumours of his joining politics as well, or taking over as chief of Prasar Bharati. But now the news is that Shourie is teaming up with Jasubhai Media group (which specialises in infotech magazines, and has tie-ups with several big international print and internet companies) and has roped in Business World editor Tony Joseph to be the editorial head of the group.

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