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Clouds over Sun empire

The sun never sets on the Maran business empire. So they said. But, on Monday, clouds of trouble began hovering over their empire.

delhi Updated: Oct 11, 2011 01:14 IST
Manoj Gairola

The sun never sets on the Maran business empire. So they said. But, on Monday, clouds of trouble began hovering over their empire.

Kalanithi Maran started Sun TV with a bank loan of $86,000 in 1993 and his journey to becoming India's 16th richest person (Forbes ranking) with a total net worh of $3.5 billion is a classic example of political patronage. During these 18 odd years, most of the time DMK was in power — either at the Centre or the state, or both.

Today, the Maran empire includes TV channels, DTH, FM radio, MSO, film distribution, print media and aviation. In 2010, Kalanithi Maran was country's highest-paid executive, taking home Rs37.08 crore — ahead of Mukesh Ambani. His wife Kaveri, as Joint MD of Sun Network, was paid Rs 37 crore.

Born to DMK heavyweight and former cabinet minister Murasoli Maran (DMK chief Karunanidhi's sister's son), Dayanidhi and Kalanithi used politics to expand their businesses.

The free TV distribution scheme of the DMK regime gave a big boost to Sun TV and to Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), a TV distribution company.
Sun TV earned a revenue of R2,14.85 crore for FY 2003 with PBT of 42%. This rose to R1,437.52 crore in FY 2010 with PBT of 60%.

In the MSO business, the SCV enjoyed near monopoly. There are around two crore cable TV subscribers in Tamil Nadu (as on June 2011) and more than half are with SCV.

In September, chief minister J Jayalalithaa revived a discounted state-run cable business, Arasu Cable TV Corp. Ltd, which signalled the end of SCV's near monopoly in the state.

On February 14, HT first reported how Astro, a Maxis group company, got cabinet nod to invest R675 crore in Sun Direct TV when Dayanidhi Maran was the communications minister. He allegedly misused his position to force original promoter of Aircel C Sivasankaran to sell his stake to his business associate T Ananda Krishnan of Maxis. Krishnan allegedly bribed Maran by investing in Sun Direct TV.