A few days after the promoters, led by Subhash Chandra, of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) sold a majority of their stake in the media and entertainment company, Chandra stepped down as its chairman on Monday.
The board of India’s first private sector television broadcaster, founded by Chandra in 1992, was also reconstituted during a meeting in Mumbai on Monday.
“The board of (ZEEL), during the meeting held today, completed the process of reconstitution of the board and appointed three new independent directors in lieu of two independent and one nominee director of Essel Group, namely Niharika Vora, Sunil Sharma and Subodh Kumar, respectively,” a statement issued by ZEEL after market hours said. “The founder of ZEEL and the pioneer of India’s private satellite television industry, Subhash Chandra, during the meeting, expressed his intent to step aside as the chairman of the company, which he founded way back in 1992. The board accepted his resignation with regret and applauded his vision for the company and the industry at large.”
The statement also said that Chandra, founder of Essel Group, was keen to step down from the board of the company altogether, but was persuaded by the other board members to stay on and “mentor” the executive management, including the managing director and chief executive officer, who happens to Chandra’s son Punit Goenka.
“The reconstitution of the board was to strengthen and induct independent members with varied experiences to build value and provide a strong signal to existing and new institutional investors who have recently reposed faith in the intrinsic value of the company by investing ₹4,770 crore,” ZEEL’s statement read.
The new board members who have been inducted in place of Vora, Sharma, and Kumar include R. Gopalan, former bureaucrat and finance secretary of India; Surendra Singh, a retired Indian Police Service officer who has held several positions in the Intelligence Bureau and was former director general of the Central Industrial Security Force; and Aparajita Jain, a contemporary arts professional.
Monday’s board meeting was conducted under the chairmanship of Gopalan, though it isn’t immediately clear who will be the permanent chair of the reconstituted board. ZEEL’s board intends to induct members who would bring in additional skillsets including digital transformation, the company said.
On November 21, Essel Group sold a 15.7% stake in the company to raise ₹4,560 crore. Among those who bought stakes in the company through block purchases in the open market were GIC of Singapore, BlackRock, SBI Mutual Fund, HSBC Global, Marshall Wallace, and ICICI Prudential.
It had earlier sold an 11% stake to existing Invesco Oppenheimer for ₹4,224 crore. Essel Group’s current shareholding in Zee stands at 5%, of which 1.1% is pledged with lenders. All the proceeds from these divestments will be utilised by the group, which had interests ranging from media and entertainment to roads and renewable energy, to pare debt. The total promoters’ liability stood at around ₹11,000 crore, and the group will be monetising other assets such as its renewable energy and its education business, Zee Learn.