The much-heralded return of Shekhar Gupta to the India Today Group appears to have gone off the rails. In a memo to the group on Monday, founder-chairman Aroon Purie announced that Gupta will no longer be Editor-in-Chief – a position he held for just two months – and instead will take the position of Editorial Advisor.
"Shekhar has spent the last two months getting to know the organization, and we him. After much thought and discussion, we have decided to restructure our arrangement to our mutual benefit,” Purie wrote in his email. “From today, I will resume the responsibilities of Editor-in-Chief and he will be Editorial Advisor to the India Today Group even as he pursues his creative and entrepreneurial interests,”
Gupta’s column, National Interest, will continue to be published in India Today, but the changes that he was expected to usher in across all the properties of the group are now dead in the water. Purie insisted that Shekhar, “a dear personal friend”, would continue to support what he called the India Today Revamp Project, and said that Gupta will continue to attend weekly news meetings, but he will no longer be steering the ship.
When Shekhar Gupta left The Indian Express after 19 years to join the India Today Group, expectations went off the charts. It was a homecoming of sorts for Gupta, who worked for the magazine previously between 1983 and 1995, but this time he would be playing a much bigger role in the company.
As Vice-Chairman of the India Today Group, Gupta was expected to reinvigorate the flagship magazine as well as usher in changes across the group’s other properties, including Mail Today and Headlines Today. The founder-publisher of the group, Aroon Purie, even sent out an introduction email to everyone in India Today saying Gupta would be Editor-in-Chief of all news properties from July 1.
“I am delighted to announce the appointment of Shekhar Gupta as Vice Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of all news properties of the India Today Group. It includes all our news and business publications, news TV brands and all related news and business digital brands,” Purie wrote then. “In his new role, Shekhar has promised to liberate me from day-to-day operations so that I can work to guiding the group into a future of great promise, growth and excitement.”
Gupta first moves were to hire a number of his old reporters from the Indian Express, as well as others, although a number of expected entrants ended up staying behind. Nevertheless, the payrolls at India Today got substantially larger. Gupta also reportedly butted heads with others within the group and got into controversy after rumours emerged that he was planning to start a new broadsheet newspaper that wouldn't entirely be owned by the India Today Group. His decision to step back from the Vice-Chairmanship and the Editor-in-Chief position allows him to now pursue other plans, which Purie expressly mentions in his memo to the group, saying, "He will be Editorial Advisor to the India Today Group even as he pursues his creative and entrepreneurial interests."