It was March 2009. Lalit Modi had triumphantly ‘bested’ Home Minister P. Chidambaram (in his own head) and taken the Indian Premier League to South Africa.
The idea of moving the league out of India, in the wake of Chidambaram saying that providing security to both IPL II and the general elections would not be possible, had apparently occurred to Modi in the middle of yet another sleepless night. The now-suspended IPL chairman is known to survive on just two-three hours sleep a day. Modi had his eureka moment and promptly texted his inner circle to say that this is what they would do.
But BCCI officials, even then, were wary, even prophetic. One IPL Governing Council member told Hindustan Times then. He added: “The problem with Lalit is that he doesn’t know when to stop. The rock-star image has him excited and he’s lapping it up. He’s like the child who’s been given the keys to the chocolate factory and doesn’t know that too much will make him sick. And if he knows that there could be an end to this, that the knives are waiting, he’s pushed that thought away. He lives for the ‘now’.”
Seeds of suspicion
While these officials were somewhat exasperated with Modi’s grandstanding, and worried over his penchant for making decisions on behalf of the IPL and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on his own, inexplicably, not one guessed just how far he’d gone.
“We knew he wasn’t a team man but he brought in the big money, the tournament was branded sport’s biggest revolution and while his tendency to overstate profits and valuations in every meeting was grating, we let it go by,” said an official.
Till September 2009, and a Governing Council (GC) meeting at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai, when the mutters became more vocal. BCCI Secretary N. Srinivasan (backed by Board president Shashank Manohar) and Modi clashed over the commission to be given to the International Management Group, who created the IPL with Modi.
“Srinivasan, being a corporate head, believed that the Rs 66 crore that IMG demanded as commission for IPL-I, which Modi had agreed to, was way too high. The BCCI first terminated the contract and then eventually, under the advice of (former president) Sharad Pawar, reinstated them, settling for about Rs 45 crore (including payments). The second edition onwards, it would be Rs 27 crore per edition. This meant that Modi had agreed to excessive fees for IMG for reasons best known to him,” said a Board insider.
The kochi conundrum
Both Srinivasan and Manohar were apparently quite wary after that. But they waited, believing that Modi would trip himself up sooner than later. Still, even they probably didn’t think he would do so as spectacularly as he eventually did, when he created IPL-gate on April 11— breaking the league’s confidentiality clause and making public the names of the stakeholders in the Kochi franchise (promoted by Rendezvous Sports World.)
He went on to indicate that the then junior Minister for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, wanted the name of one of what Modi called “free equity holders” kept quiet for personal reasons. “I was told by him not to get into who owns Rendezvous. Specially Sunanda Pushkar,” he tweeted merrily.
That was the beginning of the end. Modi had already been reprimanded in no uncertain terms by Manohar for “impropriety in the bidding process” on March 7, because of which the auction for the new teams was moved to March 21. On the 21st, instead of the bids being accepted by Modi alone, they were accepted and opened by the entire GC together, “thus removing any chance of rigging the bids in favour of a big Ahmedabad-based industrial house”, as one Council member put it.
Before this though, in January 2010, an unhappy Congress MP and Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association chief, Rajeev Shukla, wrote this to Manohar. “…I would like to bring to the Board’s notice that deals & commercials which are related to IPL are being finalised without taking the Council into confidence. The reason I am saying this is that I, being a member of the GC, is neither informed nor consulted about any deals and I get to know about such information through Press Releases…”
Manohar said the same on April 26, the day the Council met and voted low-profile BCCI vice-president and Baroda Cricket Association chief Chirayu Amin, the anti-thesis of Modi, interim IPL chairman. This was hours after Srinivasan dramatically sent Modi a suspension notice (in Manohar’s name) after the IPL final ended.
“Most contracts entered into are entered into without the consent of the Governing Council and are brought before the Council after the contracts are signed. So the Council is presented with a fait accompli,” said Manohar.
He went on to explain this. “I came here three days in advance to look into all the documents and contracts in view of the ongoing controversy. I called (IPL COO) Mr Sundar Raman because in the evening on that day there was an awards function. I was told ‘Sir, there is no contract, the contract terms were finalised yesterday night’. Now, if he tells me ‘yesterday night’ at 3 in the afternoon, the function is at 7 in the evening and the issue comes before the Governing Council thereafter, what do you expect the Council to do? Do you expect the GC to say ‘no, we reject this contract’, or cancel this function after the function is over?”
But ask Board insiders and they would tell you Modi was always brash, always demanding, always making unilateral decisions.
“Except for (PCA president Inderjeet) Bindra inside the Governing Council and Pawar outside it in the BCCI meetings — Pawar would reportedly hush any protests and say ‘he’s (Modi’s) making money for the Board, let him be’ — he was alone. But he didn’t give a damn,” said an official.
Still, there was never any impression that he was siphoning off money.
“The Sony deal for instance, was upfront. How on earth were we to know that Sony had a private parallel arrangement to pay WSG Mauritius $80 million as a facilitation fee? Or that Modi had not revealed that his brother-in-law was the majority stakeholder in Rajasthan Royals or his son-in-law held the IPL’s digital rights” asked a political leader and BCCI official.
(Note: This is a direct quote, the deal actually was made by a Singapore-based subsidiary called Multi Screen Media or MSM)
What did make the BCCI uneasy though were the two extra teams being added to the IPL bandwagon. “The matches would go from 59 to 95, the players were already hard-pressed because they were playing around the year. Everybody said no at first,” said an official. “Then, in the second part of 2009, Sharad Pawar called Shashank and Modi to him separately and put his weight behind Modi, said ‘let it go ahead’. So we did,” said an official.
While Pawar wasn’t in the Governing Council, he had considerable clout in the BCCI. And then there was the fact that he had mentored Manohar, the son of his old friend. “Shashank’s father, VR Manohar, a former advocate general of Maharashtra and a very good man, had been Pawar’s lawyer. So Shashank had grown up knowing Pawar and had been mentored by him. Often, he let the smaller battles be,” a top Board official told HT.
Manohar stood up to Pawar on two occasions. First he cancelled the bids for the new teams in the aborted March 7 auction and secondly, in mid-April, when he told Pawar to use his influence and get Modi to resign. “Pawar tried his best, even asking two of India’s best known industrialists, also franchise owners, to chip in. It was only after Pawar told Manohar Modi would not resign and that he was washing his hands off him, did Manohar decide to suspend Modi,” said a BCCI official.
It happened like this. On April 19, Manohar asked Modi to convene the GC meeting. He waited two days, but Modi didn’t respond, so he asked secretary N. Srinivasan to call it. Next day, Modi publicly stated that only he had the right to call the meeting. “This showed his intent to take on the BCCI and left the president no choice but to suspend him,” said the official. “The president waited till the IPL was over.”
In the run-up to the final, the BCCI inner circle —Manohar, Srinivasan, IPL vice-chairman Niranjan Shah, Shukla, vice-president Arun Jaitley and Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty planned how this would be done, wading through document after IPL document.
At the time of writing, the BCCI was awaiting Modi’s reply to the show-cause notice and the charges against him (he has till May 11 to do so) and hoping that government sleuths uncover more damning evidence against Modi. Shetty is locating “missing documents” from the IPL files, which will apparently bring out more scandalous revelations from Modi’s closet. Modi has reportedly hired a battery of high-profile lawyers and paid “several crores in retainers” to them to help him prepare his defence. He insists he is innocent.
The mail trail
Posts from the IPL chief that fuelled the controversy
“Because they are not forthcoming and questions will always be there if someone is not forthright.”
8:02 PM April 11th via UberTwitter in reply to iamcyrilthomas
“The Kochi shareholders are: Rendezvous 25% free, Rendezvous 1%, Anchor 27%, Parinee 26%, Film Waves combine 12%, Anand Shyam 8%,Vivek Venugopal 1%.”
3:59 PM April 11th via UberTwitter
“Rendezvous free equity — held by Kisan, Shailender & Pushpa Gaikwad, Sunanda Pushkar, Puja Gulathi, Jayant Kotalwar, Vishnu Prasad, Sundip Agarwal.”
4:03 PM April 11th via UberTwitter
“I was told by him not to get into who owns Rendezvous. Specially Sunanda Pushkar. Why?The same has been minuted in my records.”
4:26 PM April 11th via UberTwitter
in reply to xxxdevxxx