SFIO tried to sift through changed names, cross-holdings in INX Group
Like her family members and relationships, Indrani Mukerjea’s companies had multiple identities and were entangled in a maze of complex relationships with one another.
In their short lifespans, these corporate entities saw their names changed, often into those resembling names of other group entities, and these firms owned shares and convertible instruments of each other.
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) tried to make sense of these cross-holdings and entanglements in a draft report in 2013.
According to the report reviewed by Business Standard, at least five companies floated by the Mukerjea couple had changed their names. The report said INX Recruitment Services was earlier known as INX Services, Ganga Executive Search was earlier known as INX Executive Search, and Saraswati Media was earlier known as IM Media. Indrani Incon was earlier known as Indrani Mukerjea News.
The main company, which owns channels 9X and 9X Music and whose shares these other entities were holding directly or indirectly, changed its name from INX Media to 9X Media. This company is described by the draft SFIO report as follows: “M/S INX Media Pvt Ltd was promoted by Shri Peter Mukerjee and his wife Indrani Mukerjee in 2007-08. The company was engaged in the broadcasting of entertainment channel under the brand name 9X and music channel under the brand name 9XM. Around 50 per cent stake in the company, as on 31.03.2009, was owned by a consortium of PE players.”
The report further said at one point Saraswati Media, which held about 25 million shares in 9X Media, was also the largest shareholder of INX News, the company running news channels of the group. 9X Media Employees Trust (earlier known as INX Media Employee Trust) was another common shareholder.
“This reveals the intricate cross-holdings where each shareholder had a vested interest in the financial transactions of the other entity,” the report noted.
Saraswati Media was, in turn, owned by Ganga Executive Search. While Ganga Executive Search held 49,999 shares, Indrani herself owned a solitary share. Indrani, her husband and one Gautam Chadha were on the board of the company.
Ganga Executive Search was 99 per cent owned by Indrani with Pratik Basu being the third board member of the company in addition to the couple.
The report, dated April 2013, said the couple continued to be shareholders of 9X Media, “but the management is handled by Pradeep Guha, one of the directors and a former CEO of Zee Group, on behalf of PE investors.” It added that the company was now called 9X Media Pvt Ltd and operated three channels: Hindi music channel 9XM, Punjabi music channel Tashan and Marathi music channel Jhakaas.
In September 2010, NewsX announced its intention to rebrand itself as IMN News, but it never took place. In July 2012, Information TV Private Ltd (India News) acquired NewsX.
The SFIO report had talked about several alleged irregularities in the funding and share sale transactions that took place between these entities. A large corporate entity was behind both buyers and sellers in these deals, alleged the report.
The details were submitted as evidence before the Supreme Court as part of an ongoing case by non-governmental organisation Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
Separately, MCA records showed that two new companies with similar names - INX Executive Search and INX Services - came into being between Feb - March 2009.
Business Standard on Friday reported that Indrani and her husband Peter had exited the boards of most of their companies by May 2011 and their other companies had either wound up or were in the process of being wound up.