Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Subhash Chandra, on Wednesday made it clear that he will fight the takeover attempt by the US-based fund, Invesco, and will not let it make a “clandestine and illegal” takeover of the company.
“I don’t think this takeover by Invesco will ever happen. Let me tell Invesco, that you want a fight, then I will fight back. But I request Invesco to behave like a shareholder and not like an owner,” Chandra said.
In an interview to Zee News, a Zee network channel, Chandra made an emotional appeal to its viewers, and the Indian government not to allow Invesco to take over the company.
“The Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the SEBI must not let Invesco break the local laws. They must investigate the several laws broken by Invesco and its hidden agenda to take over the company,” Chandra said.
Chandra, who broke down on live television, said he set up Zee TV network in 1992 and was offered $500 million in 1994 by a foreign media baron for a complete sale of the network but he refused to sell them. “ZEEL belongs to its 250,000 shareholders and 900 million viewers. We are the only Indian channel at present. If Invesco wants to give a better offer than Sony Pictures then they must bring the offer to the table,” Chandra said “My advice to Invesco is to bring your offer to the table and let the shareholders decide,” Chandra said.
In early September, Invesco had asked the company’s board to call an extraordinary general meeting to appoint six of its nominees and remove the current MD and CEO, Punit Goenka. After Zee board rejected the move, the matter is now pending in the courts.
Chandra said no one is clear about Invesco’s ownership structure and who is behind the two funds who own Zee stake. “We don’t know whether it is a China-based fund or who is behind it. Invesco wants to take over the company secretly and is defying all the Indian laws. The ZEE board is independent and has taken advice from a former SC judge and rejected Invesco’s proposal to call for an EGM,” Chandra said.
“As the EGM requisition itself was illegal, the board is duty bound to tell investors that it is not legal,” Chandra said. “I request the Zee board to tell Invesco to bring a deal to the table and let shareholders decide,” he said.
Chandra said Indian probe agencies must work honestly, and look at all Invesco’s antecedents. The government should also ask the agencies to take interest in Invesco,” Chandra said. Though Invesco funds are backed by US-based fund Oppenheimer, it seems Invesco has changed,” Chandra said.
Chandra said if Invesco gives a good offer, then he is ready to sell his 4 per cent stake. “’But if you (Invesco) take over this company illegally, then I will not let this happen.” Chandra said Sony, which agreed to merge with Zee, gave an undertaking that Goenka would run the company for five years and retain the Indian management. “On the other hand, we don’t know who is behind Invesco and what they want. They may be having an Indian partner who is helping them but we are not sure,” he said.
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