Cricket, airlines, media: Powerful Maran brothers forayed into all

  • KV Lakshmana, Hindustan Times, Chennai
  • Updated: Apr 02, 2015 09:07 IST

From a powerful political family in Tamil Nadu, the Marans leveraged its clout to build a profitable business empire that ranged from television stations to airlines.

The Maran brothers' business fortunes rose in direct proportion to the political power they enjoyed -- both at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu.

Before entering politics after his father's death, Dayanidhi was running Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), a multi-system operator for Sun Group and an amateur radio station.

Kalanithi Maran, elder brother of former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran, wanted to own one channel in every language operating across India when he started Sun TV in 1993. However, the pan-India television empire was out of reach. He then concentrated on South India and emerged as the single largest player in television with 32 channels.

The Maran brothers realised the importance of media, and along the way Kalanithi acquired two Tamil dailies and six magazines to emerge as a powerful media conglomerate in South India with presence in all four major languages – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

The group's cable business – SCV – is with Dayanidhi while Kalanithi is the managing director of the Sun media empire. In 2012, the media empire that the brothers built in three decades stood at a value of Rs 13,500 crore.

The pan India dream of Kalanithi, who is listed among Forbes' 50 wealthiest Indians, was finally realised when he bought 45 FM stations across the country.

And after acquiring a struggling Spicejet in 2010, Kalanithi had announced proudly "Finally, I connect every part of India." He had invested Rs 750 crore, from the media empire's earnings to acquire 37.5% stake at Rs 47.25 per share.

Subsequent investments in the airline hiked Kalanithi's stake (along with his company KAL Airways) in Spicejet to 53.48%. But, he recently tried to offloaded his stake in the airlines.

Spicejet ran into losses and had to be put on sale to save it from crashing out of business. The airlines announced in January that Kalanithi and KAL Airways planned to sell the entire equity to its new promoter Ajay Singh. Maran, his wife Kaveri and MD S Natarajen had resigned from the Spicejet board too.

After airlines, Marans turned their attention to cricket and IPL. In 2012 when Deccan Chargers was up for sale, Kalanithi bought the Hyderabad IPL team with a bid of Rs 85.05 crore a year for the next five years, a total of Rs 425.25 crore.

Kalanithi's father, former Union minister Murasoli Maran and former BCCI president N Srinivasan were very close friends, which is why he had picked up the IPL team at his behest.

But Kalanithi's acquisitions -- Spicejet and an IPL team -- have spelt trouble for him just like for Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines and Royal Challengers team.

Things took a turn for worse for the Maran brothers in 2011 when businessman C Sivasankaran complained to the CBI that he was forced to sell his telecom venture, Aircel, to Maxis in 2006 by the Maran brothers.

It is in this case that the enforcement directorate has ordered attachment of the properties of the brothers valued at Rs 724 crore on Wednesday.

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Aircel-Maxis case: Marans challenge CBI court
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