Murdoch survived & thrived, so will Chandra

Zee's promoters are battling the so-called debt crisis headon, just like Murdoch did in the 90s.

MUMBAI: There's alarm bells being sounded that Zee TV chairman Subhash Chandra and his dynamic sons Punit and Amit might be losing control of India's cable and satellite TV pioneering venture. Unconfirmed reports have been appearing about certain financial institutions selling promoter shares pledged with them. Are the concerns warranted? No! Absolutely not!

More often than not, there have been canards floated around by vested interests that someone or the other is wanting out of the arrangement that Chandra’s elder son – Punit Goenka – has hammered out with the instituitions that have lent the family money on promoter shares pledged with them. These have appeared in a specific financial daily and have more often than not proved unfounded.

Chandra and his family are finding themselves in a spot just like Rupert Murdoch did in the late eighties-early nineties. Murdoch had weighed his firm News Corp with some $7.6 billion in banking and institutional debt to fuel the massive rapid expansion of his media empire globally. He had bet that interest rates would drop; they rose instead. A banking crisis and an advertising market collapse hit global economies, pushing the company to the brink of bankruptcy. To add to his woes, the principal lenders had sold off parcels of debt to others making it a roster of 146 financial firms to which it owed the money and in 10 different currencies.

The banks were getting a bout of nerves wondering whether they would be repaid ever. But Murdoch came up with an aggressive survival plan along with a Citibanker Anne Lane, who believed in his strategy. He began a roadshow to get the bankers’ approval for News Corp to continue to do business. Murdoch’s  first port of call was in Adelaide where at the Commonwealth Bank, he unabashedly told his other lenders that he would not be able to repay the debt in the form it was structured. The bankers howled and screamed, but Murdoch and Lane stood firm. The Ozzie at times got agitated about the fact that he had to placate his bankers and make them believe that he would come good. Three hours of harddselling and persuasion, and the bankers left without any commitment of extension.

From there he flew to London and New York where the same pleading, cajoling and convincing continued with his lenders. A small bank in Pittsburgh was threatening to call in its $10 million loan; Murdoch along with Lane flew down to Pittsburgh and convinced its manager not to.

The road show went on and Murdoch kept missing his repayment deadlines. From November 1990 to February 1991 he continued with his spiel non-stop. Until  he heard that all the banks had agreed to stand by him. They stated that they would freeze the nearly $8 billion in loans for the next three years. 

The rest of course is history.  That  tough period helped Murdoch toughen himself up even further and he went on to further build his empire which Disney bought for about $72 billion, even as he retained control of the news business.

There are parallels between Murdoch and Chandra. Both are first generation media entrepreneurs. While the former grew his media and entertainment empire, he failed at almost everything outside it. Ditto with Chandra and family who pledged their equity to fund his infrastructure projects, an area he was not very familiar with. Chandra and family are currently extracting his company from what some may call a finacial quagmire. Murdoch had his moment in the early nineties. Both were partners in the nineties in Zee TV's uplinking company and in cable TV arm Siticable, before deciding to part ways. Murdoch had relatively humble beginnings; he inherited a local publication in Australia; he swelled it to a global empire. Chandra’s origins too  were modest; he used to make massive food grain containers and toothpaste lamitubes. And then came his entertainment and media expansion, followed by a disastrous entry into infrastructure. Both Murdoch and Chandra read their respective markets wrong. Both suffered on account of market changes.

Then, like Murdoch, Chandra and his sons are battling a crisis. They are facing it with their chins jutting out, that’s the degree of their confdience. And that's the mettle of their entrepreneurship. They have built a media company like no other in India with a clutch of channels and assets like Zee5.  A corporation  which has a reputation globally; one which is truly rooted in India, understands its audiences. but with a worldwide  presence. An organisation which is tightly run by a professional owner - Punit - with his father mentoring him-  and a team of managers cobbled togerther from the top most Indian and global  firms. They have been working on finding ways to reduce their costs: the daily newspaper DNA has shut down its print edition, retaining a digital presence.  Some of their infrastructure initiatives are on the block.

Will they pull off a rescue of their battleship? Despite the so-called financial crisis, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd has been turning out enviable financial results in the last two quarters. Which apparently is not reflected in the share price that has been relatively subdued.

We, at, are betting that the family Chandra will come sailing out of the storm ; they will most likely emerge a little  bruised but not battered. They have five months to find buyers for their pleadged equity shares. Which they will. All they need is time. Just like Murdoch did. If it sounds too simplistic a reasoning; only time will tell us whether it will come true. So keep watching this space.

Latest Reads
Regional TV channels ride the growth wave, show surge in ad volume

The month of October registered the highest advertising volumes for the year 2021 on TV, as per Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India. But what also remained significant was the growth story scripted by the regional language channels.

Television TV Channels Regional
Star Bharat returns with new season of ‘Sasuraal Genda Phool’

In a post pandemic scenario, the significance of our Indian joint family system has become even more relevant as people seek ways to re-establish their bonds with their closed ones. Bringing alive this sentiment, Star Bharat is all set to return with the second edition of ‘Sasuraal Genda Phool 2...

Television TV Channels Viewership
IN10 Media’s Epic readies for brand makeover starting 16 December

IN10 Media Network’s premier infotainment channel Epic is all set to undergo a brand makeover and offer a slate of new programming starting 16 December. The new brand positioning will carry the vision of ‘Soch Se Aage’ – highlighting the channel’s vision to forge a ‘future of infotainment’.

Television TV Channels Viewership
Sun TV most watched channel in week 47: Barc

Mumbai: Toppling Star Plus, Sun TV became the most watched channel in Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) week 47 (20 to 26 November). The channel garnered weekly AMAs of 2783.24 (‘000s). It was at the second position last week with 2694.33 AMA. Star Plus grabbed the next spot with 2743.38...

Television TV Channels Viewership
Zee TV challenges gender stereotypes in its new show

Mumbai: The portrayal of women on the small screen has always been a subject of intense debate. Some draw inspiration from the society, where women are often told to prioritise their marriage over their careers, or relegate their careers when it comes to making a choice. Zee TV is hoping to...

Television TV Channels Movie Channels
IT panel recommends MIB to restructure PCI to cover all types of media

Mumbai: Parliament’s standing committee on communications and information technology, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has recommended the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) to set up a media council on the lines of the Press Council of India (PCI), with statutory powers over...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Aaj Tak returns with latest edition of ‘Agenda Aaj Tak’

Mumbai: Hindi news channel Aaj Tak returns with 'Agenda Aaj Tak,' the biggest thought platform for debates and discussions in the Hindi language. The theme of the event is 'Naye Daur Mein Likhenge Nayi Kahani' (new stories written for a new age), capturing how a resurgent nation, emerging...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Zeel-Invesco case: Bombay HC to resume hearing on 6 December

Mumbai: The division bench of the Bombay high court has kept the Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) and Invesco case for further hearing on 6 December. Invesco has challenged the injunction order by the court that restrained the majority shareholder from calling an extraordinary general...

Television TV Channels GECs
NBA, Viacom18 announce multi-year broadcast and streaming partnership in India

Mumbai: The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Viacom18 have announced a multi-year partnership to deliver live NBA games and programming to fans in India across television and over-the-top streaming. Beginning with the NBA’s 75th anniversary season in 2021-22, Viacom18 as part of the...

Television TV Channels Viewership

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required