Sources involved in the negotiations of takeover of NDTV by SpiceJet’s Ajay Singh on Friday confirmed that the reports of channel’s sale are indeed true.
One top source said that under the deal, Ajay Singh, the man who coined the phrase, Abki Baar Modi Sarkar, will keep 40% share and editorial rights, while the channel’s founders, Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy will keep 21% stake. The rest, said the source, will be held by individual ‘market investors.’
This came even after The Hindu reported that a NDTV source had denied the reports of its sale to Singh.
Quoting sources, The Hindu had said, “Not even a single sentence of these reports is true.” NDTV is likely to issue a formal statement by Friday evening.
NDTV too wrote to BSE denying the change of ownership. It said, “With reference to your letter seeking clarification on the news item appearing on www.moneycontrol.com, we wish to inform you that the promoters of the Company have not entered into any agreement for sale of their stake in the Company to any person.
“The Company is mindful of its obligations under Clause 30 of the Listing Regulations and shall promptly intimate you of any event required which is required to be disclosed under the said Regulations. We hope that the above clarifies the matter raised in your aforesaid letter.”
But the channel did not reject the Indian Express report denying outright. This, according to many, has been very unusual given that the channel has always been very transparent with its communication related to the channel. Its statement, some industry watchers felt, was only an indication that deal had yet been sealed and it will inform the BSE once the ownership finally changes.
In a report published by Indian Express, a source had confirmed the news, “Yes, the deal has been finalised and Ajay Singh will take control of NDTV along with editorial rights.”
The report had further added that once the deal goes through, Singh will have controlling stake in NDTV of around 40 per cent and the promoters Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy will hold around 20 per cent in the company.
The channel is only obliged to inform the BSE once the deal is through.
The IE report also added that data available with BSE showed that the promoter holding in NDTV as of June 2017 stood at 61.45 per cent. Public shareholding in the company stands at 38.55 per cent. The source said that Ajay Singh will also pick up NDTV’s debt of over Rs 400 crore and the total deal is valued at around Rs 600 crore.
The channel has been facing CBI probe allegedly concealing a share transaction. In June the federal probe agency had raided the houses of Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika Roy.
The development caused a considerable furore both in India and abroad as media from around the globe provided prominent coverage with many calling it a blow to press freedom in India. The New York Times even dedicated an editorial on the CBI raids by concluding that ‘the raids mark an alarming new level of intimidation of India’s news media under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.’
The raids on Roys’ houses had taken place just days after one of the anchors working for the channel had asked a BJP spokesperson to leave the show. Nidhi Razdan had told Patra to leave the show if he did not apologise after he accused the NDTV of spreading misinformation with an agenda.
In July, the channel was reported to have fired over 70 staff, mostly in technical department, as part of cost cutting exercise.