A bitter boardroom battle in the company that owns TV9, a leading multi-lingual television news channel, has culminated in the ignominious exit of its CEO Ravi Prakash.
The new management Alanda Media and Entertainment, which has acquired 90.50% stake in Associated Broadcasting Company Private Limited (ABCPL) that runs the media organisation, announced the removal of Ravi Prakash and appointed Mahendra Mishra, the interim head.
A household name in the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for introducing new trends in TV journalism, Ravi Prakash is both revered and despised in equal measure. He has been the face of the channel since its launch in 2004 and presided over its aggressive expansion into other territories. The Telugu channel has been consistently topping the TAM rating chart.
The announcement, made last night (May 10), caps a string of dramatic events that unfolded in the media organisation with the new promoters of the company filing a cheating and forgery case against the founder CEO.
The main allegation against Ravi Prakash was that he had tried to “obstruct” the takeover by the new promoters through “forgery and coercive methods.” The veteran journalist holds 8% shares in the ABCPL.
The Board of Directors of ABCPL announced that all the powers of Ravi Prakash and Chief Financial Officer MKVN Murthy have been revoked and the two removed from their posts with “immediate effect.”
“Ravi Prakash and Murthy had malafide intention of not allowing Alanda to participate in the management of ABCPL. The duo, with selfish interest of controlling the company, had also filed wrong cases against the new directors and colluded with third parties for filing false cases against the company and creating a situation so that the new directors would not be able to function properly,” the ABCPL directors Sambasiva Rao, Kaushik Rao, Jagapathi Rao and A Srinivas told a media conference in Hyderabad.
Alanda Media and Entertainment and its nominee directors have taken the management control of TV9, they said.
Ravi Prakash’s removal from the channel came a day after a case was registered against him for allegedly cheating the promoters, Alanda Media and Entertainment, which has acquired majority stake in the company.
The city police filed cases against him under various provisions of the IT Act for allegedly forging documents.
Ravi Prakash has however denied the charges and alleged that false cases were foisted on him to stifle the voice of independent journalism.
“In view of the mala fide intentions and fraudulent acts of Ravi Prakash, the Board has removed him from the post of the CEO and the EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) held today ratified it,” the company directors said.
The Board also appointed four persons as per the provisions of the Companies Act, which was approved by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The Board also appointed former journalist Singa Rao, who had earlier headed the business bureaus at “Eenadu” and Business Standard in Hyderabad, as Chief Operating Officer (COO) to assist the new CEO.
“There will be no changes in the organisational set-up in TV9. It will continue to be called “TV9” and will continue to be with ABCPL,” the directors said adding that Ravi Prakash’s removal had become necessary to protect the interests of the majority shareholders.
Last year, Alanda Media and Entertainment had picked up 90.50% stake in ABCL, which runs the 24 hour news channels in several languages under the “TV9” logo. It has Kannada, Marathi and Gujarati channels.
Bitter boardroom battle
The differences cropped up between the buyers and the CEO over administrative and editorial matters.
An ABCPL press release said that Ravi Prakash had forged the signature of the company secretary to mislead the registrar of companies on certain issues.
The police said that searches were carried out at the office of the CEO and the residence of his friend-turned-foe Shivaji, a Telugu actor, who is said to hold some shares in ABCL.
The case was booked based on a complaint by P Kaushik Rao, director of Alanda Media and Entertainment who alleged that the CEO created fake documents and was trying to prevent the new management of the company from taking over the operations, police said.
In his resignation letter, which The Federal has seen, Ravi Prakash made some sweeping allegations against the new promoters, dubbing them as “representatives of political honchos who are out there to devour every journalist and independent media house.”
“You have attempted to enter ABCL as directors through the backdoor and take illegal control. You have filed false complaints against me because I chose to be treated as a journalist who created one of the most profitable media groups in the country,” he said in the letter addressed to the board of directors of the ABCPL.
“I am resigning as CEO due to the malicious arm twisting, misleading and false cases,” he said.
“You have used the Telangana Police which was at your disposal to try and achieve your goal of tarnishing my unscathed image, thereby to make TV9 another political mouthpiece. You have violated stringent orders of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) restraining the company to alienate its shares or assets of the company in collusion with the earlier promoter Srinivasa Raju of iLabs. You are representatives of political business houses, which are bent upon illegal, pretentious and hostile ways of ruining independent media houses to your benefit,” he said.
Claiming that he “sowed the seeds of independent journalism”, Ravi Prakash hoped that it would continue to flourish and work for the betterment of society.
Brash, new brand of journalism
As the channel head, Ravi Prakash broke new ground in television journalism; brash, in-the-face and opinionated style of presenting the news. The channel caught up the imagination of the audience for its novelty and provocative approach.
However, it is often accused of sensationalising the events, particularly in its breathless coverage of crime stories. His “Encounter with Ravi Prakash”, a free-wheeling interview with key personalities from various fields, was among the popular shows of the channel.