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Mukerjea, Sarkar meet top BJP leaders; discuss Star News

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NEW DELHI: Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea and the owner-publisher of the Anand Bazar Patrika (ABP) group Aveek Sarkar paid a courtesy call to senior government officials in Delhi today.

The Kolkata-based Sarkar is set to pick up 74 per cent equity stake (estimated at Rs 750 million) in Media Content and Communication Services (MCCS) that oversees the functioning of Star News in India, including the uplinking of content from Indian soil.

Mukerjea, Sarkar and some senior executives from Star and the ABP group visited the deputy prime minister LK Advani as well as senior information and broadcasting ministry officials.

After several deliberations and closed-door confabulations, Star India has managed to bring the ABP group aboard MCCS - the holding company for Star News. The meetings with BJP leaders today looks like a part of Star's endeavour to lay to rest a controversial case and allegations that Star News is being held by dummy companies and shareholders with no real powers. ABP will pick up 74 per cent of the equity, with Star holding the remaining 26 per cent - in line with the governments new rules for TV news companies.

It has been reported that Sarkar had informally briefed the senior members of his team about his intention to pick up the stake in MCCS.

Previous investors in a controversial dummy company with Rs 40 million equity, including Seth, TV personality Maya Alagh, former Bollywood actor Jeetendra and DSP Merrill Lynch's Hemendra Kothari, will presumably be bought out. Sarkar was slated to meet Hindustan Times editor and MCCS investor Vir Sanghvi over dinner yesterday - incidentally, Sarkar was described by Sanghvi as "an old friend."

It is, however, not known whether Star, directly or indirectly, would have some business interest in ABP or a subsidiary that may be interested in bringing out an edition of Telegraph from Mumbai, the stronghold of Times of India.

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