Media Matters

Rajdeep and Sagarika to resign as Reliance takes over Network 18

Network 18 managing director Raghav Bahl is likely to resign tomorrow.

Celebrity TV journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose are likely to resign from CNN-IBN by end of June, as Reliance Industries Ltd is taking over the channel's holding company, Network 18. They are likely to go on leave from June 1 and resign by June 30, Network 18 officials told Scroll.in. In between, they will sell to Reliance Industries their minority shares in the company.

Network 18 managing director Raghav Bahl is likely to resign tomorrow, May 30. He has no immediate investment or entrepreneurial plans in the media, these officials said. This will come after the exit earlier this week of three top executives at Network 18, Sai Kumar, Ajay Chacko and RDS Bawa.

While Sardesai and Ghose have offers from other media houses, officials denied the rumours doing the rounds in the Delhi media for weeks that they were considering an offer from Focus TV. While Ghose is reliably learnt to be considering offers from other media organisations, Sardesai is considering taking a break for a year to write a book. The duo haven't had it easy with the management of the channel recently. In February, Scroll.in had reported that the management had asked Ghose to not be critical of Narendra Modi, who was making an ambitious bid for the post of prime minister.

Reliance Industries Ltd. today said in a press release (.pdf here) that they were putting in Rs. 4,000 crores (around $679 million) in Independent Media Trust for "acquisition of control in Network 18 Media & Investments Ltd... including its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast Limited... " In other words, Reliance Industries is effecting a management takeover of Network 18.

"The acquisition will differentiate Reliance's 4G business by providing a unique amalgamation at the intersect of telecom, web and digital commerce via a suite of premier digital properties," the release said. "This suite includes In.com, IBNLive.com, Moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, Cricketnext.in, Homeshop18.com, Bookmyshow.com; the broadcast channels include Colors, CNN IBN, CNBC TV18, IBN7, CNBC Awaaz."

The announcement has left Network 18 employees in a state of uncertainty, sources say.

The Independent Media Trust will use these funds to buy 78% stake in Network18 and 9% stake in TV18 and to acquire shares tendered in the Open Offers. IMT will make open offers simultaneously to public shareholders to acquire shares of Network18, TV18 and Infomedia Press Limited.
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