“Even those who presented the bid documents do not know who they are”

Unfazed by Shashi Tharoor's counter-attack, Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi on Wednesday maintained that there was a question mark over the owners of the IPL Kochi franchise.

In the midst of a raging controversy in which the Minister of State for External Affairs has been drawn into, Mr. Modi told a press conference here that he would call a meeting of the IPL Governing Council after April 25 and discuss the issue.

“As regards all earlier franchisees we know who the owners are. They come, they attend conferences and meetings but as far as the Kochi IPL is concerned we had a question mark.

“Even those who presented the bid documents do not know who they [owners] are,” he said, in reply to questions over the Kochi team ownership, following a controversy that Mr. Tharoor's friend, Sunanda Pushkar, has got a free equity of 19 per cent valued at about Rs. 70 crore in the consortium that owns the team.

Replying to a question, Mr. Modi said that in the case of eight teams already in the IPL, everybody knew who the shareholders were but in the case of Kochi even the shareholders did not know.

Calling it a “small issue, nevertheless an issue,” Mr. Modi said, “We will deal with it.”

To a question about his interest in the Rajasthan Royals team, he said: “I have no hidden agenda or hidden stake.”

Asked if the latest controversy has affected him, he said, “No, nothing.”

To seek details

Mr. Modi earlier told PTI that it was a job to seek the details of every shareholder and authenticate the shareholding of every franchisee.

“It is my job as Chairman of the IPL to seek [the] details and authenticate the shareholding of every franchise...how would I otherwise know where the money is coming from,” Mr. Modi said in reply to Mr. Tharoor who accused him of impropriety, by divulging the details of the shareholding of the Kochi franchise.

Wondering why any third party (Mr. Tharoor), which is not a shareholder in any of the franchise, should be exercised about IPL seeking details, Mr. Modi said he did not know who Ms. Pushkar was till he read about her in the newspapers.

Ms. Pushkar was given 19 per cent of the 25 per cent equity held by Rendezvous Sports World in the Kochi franchise.

The cash-rich IPL, which has become a billion-dollar revenue entity in the third season this year, had auctioned the Kochi and Pune franchisees to Rendezvous and Sahara last month for a total of about Rs. 3,200 crore.

Mr. Modi, who has been credited with the success of the IPL, also wondered why Ms. Pushkar should be given free equity and asked “whether she is bringing any value?”

‘Call has been minuted’

Questioning Mr. Tharoor making a phone call to the IPL for not disclosing the identity of shareholders of Rendezvous, he said: “His call has been minuted and the entire conversation has been minuted by IPL.”

For transparency

He said his main concern was always to find out the sources of money and the identity of the shareholders, to maintain transparency in IPL and keep it above board, particularly on account of the huge money involved.

Asked about the Board of Control for Cricket in India president Shashank Manohar's reaction on the Kochi issue, Mr. Modi said: “I will not comment on the issue, particularly when it is our internal matter. I will give a suitable reply.”

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