Special Correspondent

Announces plans to invest Rs. 100 crore over two years

  • Purpose is to fulfil the goals of UNI's founding fathers
  • "Why don't you allow me to promote a good cause?"

    NEW DELHI: Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra said on Friday that he would give up his majority stake in the United News of India (UNI) if the Government or any of the newspapers opposed to his entry into the news agency was ready to make the necessary investment to revive it.

    Offers to give up stake

    "If the Government or any of the newspaper owners are willing to revive [the] UNI, I will happily give up my shares," Mr. Chandra said in his first interaction with the media after becoming a shareholder in the UNI.

    He said that he stood to gain nothing from the investment as the UNI was a company set up under Sec. 25 of the Companies Act and all profits had to be ploughed back into it. He also announced plans to invest Rs. 100 crore in the UNI over two years.

    Good cause

    "My purpose is to fulfil the goal with which the founding fathers of [the] UNI set it up," Mr. Chandra said, maintaining that his group spent about Rs. 100 crore every year on good causes.

    To repeated questions on why he was willing to invest money in the UNI when there was no scope of earning any profit, he said: "Why don't you allow me to promote a good cause?"

    Mr. Chandra said: "If I am successful in reviving [the] UNI, it will give me mental satisfaction. It will also enhance my image. I am looking at this not as a businessman."

    Real estate

    As for the real estate that his shareholding in the UNI will give him access to, he said: "The real estate belongs to [the] UNI and Zee cannot take it away. We want to turn [the] UNI into a global agency and for that we need to provide the employees a good working environment instead of the barracks from which they are functioning now. What can Zee or Essel do with the land? There is no point even renting it out, since the money has to be put back into [the] UNI."

    However, he sidestepped questions on whether the premises would be used to house other Zee-backed entities.

    Not takeover

    Maintaining that buying majority shares in the UNI was not tantamount to a "takeover," he said there would be no retrenchment while indicating that his company was working on a Voluntary Retirement Scheme.

    Skill enhancement

    "We are prepared to talk to the employees on what can be done and the way ahead. Firing people is not our policy. We believe in skill enhancement, identifying their strengths and placing them in jobs they are best equipped to do," said Mr. Chandra's close aide P. C. Lahiri, who was recently co-opted to the UNI's Board of Directors.

    Congress against monopoly

    PTI adds:

    The Congress said on Friday that no step should be taken which would put control of the UNI in the hands of one entity and cause a conflict of interests.

    Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters that it was for the Government to ensure that there was no monopoly in the agency.