Even as the storm broke over the acrimonious war of words between Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi over the shareholders in the Kochi IPL franchise, an intricate international web of ownership of other IPL teams emerged, spreading from Nigeria to Mauritius to India.
Among what emerged was this: That IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi’s brother-in-law (his wife Minal’s sister’s husband), Suresh Chellaram, a Nigeria-based businessman, is the majority shareholder in the Rajasthan Royals.
Chellaram confirmed this to the Hindustan Times on Tuesday. “My family does hold the largest stake in Jaipur IPL Cricket Pvt Ltd and I am Lalit Modi’s sister-in-law’s husband. But that’s always been well-documented, so I don’t think that’s an issue.”
It wouldn’t be, except for two things. First, most people haven’t really heard of Jaipur IPL Cricket Pvt Ltd (in the obscure way of how many IPL team ownerships are structured, JIPL is in turn owned by a Mauritius-based concern called EM Sporting Holdings).
Modi had detailed the ownership of the Kochi franchise on Twitter on Sunday, which the Kochi franchisees dubbed “a breach of faith”. BCCI president Shashank Manohar also called it “a serious breach of the confidentiality clause” of the agreement between the IPL and the Kochi team.
Modi responded by saying he believed everything should be transparent. Logically then, he should himself have first declared he had familial interests, direct or indirect, in the IPL teams.
Though the team owners called it “coincidence”, Modi’s step son-in-law, Gaurav Burman, is the brother of Dabur’s Mohit Burman, co-owner of the King’s XI Punjab.
The above is only what can be put on record. There is more happening out there.
A couple of senior BCCI officials were among a group that called up the prospective bidders for the two new teams (the bids that were finally won by a consortium led by Rendezvous Sports for Kochi and the Sahara group for Pune) and asked them to withdraw, said a source. Bidders were also given the option of giving a stake in the teams to the said officials, in order to up their chances of winning the bid.
Meanwhile, even while the opposition BJP called for the Prime Minister to sack Union Minister of State Tharoor and conduct an inquiry over his relationship with Sunanda Pushkar, one of the shareholders of the Kochi franchise (as named by Modi on Twitter), the Congress party closed ranks and said it was a personal issue. “The party has nothing to do with this. It is an individual matter.”
Tharoor though was livid. After a day of silence on Monday, when Modi said on Twitter that Tharoor had called and put pressure on him to not release the names of the members of the Kochi consortium, and a media frenzy then ensued over Tharoor's alleged involvement with the team via Pushkar, Tharoor came out with a detailed statement.
“I deny Mr Lalit Modi's allegation that I called him during his meeting with investors in the Kochi consortium in Bangalore on Saturday night in order to press him not to question the composition of the consortium,” said Tharoor. “I called Mr Modi to ask why he was further delaying the approval of the franchise when all the legal requirements had been fulfilled.”
He also made very serious allegations. He said “various attempts were made” by Modi and others to pressurise the Kochi consortium to “abandon their bid in favour of another city in a different state”; that the Kochi bid's “unexpected success upset the plans of a lot of powerful people” and that Modi's “extraordinary breach of all propriety is clearly an attempt to discredit the team and create reasons to disqualify it so that the franchise can be awarded elsewhere.”
While BCCI president Shashank Manohar said he would say nothing more till the IPL's Governing Council met in the next 10 days to discuss the matter, sources indicated that Modi had “gone too far this time” and the coming meeting could have a bearing on his future role in the BCCI/IPL.
Despite repeated phone calls and sms requests throughout Tuesday, Modi refused to come on record to HT, other than to indicate that all would be revealed “in time” and that he had “documents” pertaining to his conversation with Tharoor and he had “minuted” the same.