Television

9X Media sale: Pradeep Guha & Rajat Sharma rubbish reports

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MUMBAI: The entities that were said to be involved in acquisition talks have no clue about the development. It seems to be pure speculation.

The media and entertainment industry was since morning rife with speculation that India TV promoter Rajat Sharma is acquiring a controlling stake in the New Silk Route (NSR)-backed 9X Media. Reports emerged in the last few hours that also state the value of the deal was Rs 200 crore (Rs. 2,000 million).

9X Media’s CEO Pradeep Guha, however, rubbished this news. He told Indiantelevision.com, “All the reports are absolutely rubbish. We are not selling 9X Media.” When Rajat Sharma was contacted, he retorted: "I have no idea where these reports are coming from. I am out of the country. All these reports are absolutely false."

Though, Sharma has been keen on evaluating several opportunities to diversify the business portfolio of Independent News Service, which depends entirely on advertising revenue from India TV, acquiring 9X Media is not in his list. Yet. Sharma and his wife Ritu Dhawan are the largest shareholders of INS, which is the parent company of India TV. They own close to 60 per cent stake in the company.

According to reports that are making the rounds in the industry, Sharma may seek help for the fund transaction from existing investors in INS like the Silicon Valley-based media investor Keyur Patel who also owns a stake in NDTV through his CV Global Holdings, a Mauritius based investment arm.

NSR was earlier looking to sell its 80 per cent stake in 9X Media to Sony Pictures Networks in August. Its CEO Pradeep Guha directly owns five per cent stake whereas 9X Media Employee Trust has a 13 per cent stake. NSR has Drag Along/Tag rights over Guha’s shareholding and can cause him to sell his entire holding if the transaction materialises.

9X Media was founded in 2007 by Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea and owns a bouquet of music channels that include regional language channels in Marathi and Punjabi. Its flagship channels are 9XM and 9X Jalwa.

The rise of India TV as India's leading news channel within a fairly short span of its existence owes a lot to the vision of its chairman and editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma who, along with his wife Ritu, leads a team of professionals.

Sharma, considered close to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, co-founded India TV with his wife Ritu Dhawan in April, 2004 from a swanky studio-cum-office in Film City, Noida. Sharma and Dhawan had set up their own production house, Independent News Service (INS), the parent company which owns India TV, in 1997 that has now transformed into a broadcasting company --- a la NDTV and TV18/Network18.

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