The owner and co-founder of SpiceJet, Ajay Singh, is set to take control of NDTV as he has bought a majority stake in the news channel, The Indian Express reported on Friday. The deal was finalised at a sum of around Rs 600 crore.
Singh was part of the core advertising team of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll campaign ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He is believed to be the mind behind the BJP’s “Abki Baar, Modi Sarkar” campaign slogan.
“Yes, the deal has been finalised and Ajay Singh will take control of NDTV along with editorial rights,” The Indian Express quoted unidentified officials as saying. However, another SpiceJet official refuted the report, calling it “false and baseless”.
The development comes at a time when the founders of NDTV – Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy and promoter firm RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd – are facing an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation for allegedly laundering funds of Rs 403.85 crore to create interest in favour of a shell company.
NDTV’s promoter holding till June was at 61.45%, and public shareholding stood at 38.55%. Singh will take control of around 40% stake, and the Roys will hold nearly 20% in the company. Singh will also pick up the channel’s debt of more than Rs 400 crore, according to The Indian Express.
The complaint against NDTV was filed by Sanjay Dutt, director of Quantum Services Private Limited. NDTV founder Radhika Roy and the channel’s Executive Chairperson Prannoy Roy have been accused of committing fraud and “causing wilful loss of over Rs 48 crores to ICICI Bank and the shareholders of NDTV. The bank is also accused of providing a discount on the interest payable on the loan.
In June, the CBI had conducted raids at Prannoy Roy’s houses in Delhi and Dehradun. In a statement released after the raids, NDTV had accused the CBI of “concerted harassment” of the channel and its promoters based on the “same old endless false accusations”.