How Srinivasan built an empire of corruption
The circle of life has caught up with the CSK owner, and hopefully the Supreme Court will stop him in his tracks.
- Total Shares
The Indian cricket board has seen many powerful presidents and equally many crises. It has survived everything thrown at it in the past including brutal catechism and intense scrutiny. Greed however has got greedier with envy thrown in over the last couple of years. At the very intersection of everything that ails Indian cricket administration is an industrialist called N Srinivasan.
Wily, cunning and canny, Srinivasan is a veritable masterclass in the art of survival. Using the ingenuity that comes out of street smart jugaad, he has managed to outsmart all his rivals and become the undisputed king of Indian and even world cricket.
At every twist and turn in the Srinivasan saga, he has appeared to be the "Teflon Man", one who understands that there is no spring without winter. An ego the size of a cricket field has meant that conflict of interest, cronyism and other similar sounding euphemisms for abuse of absolute power have simply not stuck to him. An array of opponents has been quelled – his rivals in cricket administration, former cricketers with voice and heft, and finally of course the players themselves. Every single one of them domesticated, leaving no challenger to him in Indian cricket politics.
A quick examination of past cricket board presidents leaves you gasping for air. Such was the weight they carried, the worthies include Sharad Pawar, NKP Salve, Madhavrao Scindia, SK Wankhede, Shashank Manohar, MA Chidambaram, Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad, BN Dutt, Anthony D’Mello, IS Bindra, S Sriraman, ZR Irani, AC Muthiah, Jagmohan Dalmiya among others. They appear to be tame in comparison to the clout and influence that Srinivasan has peddled.
Srinivasan has systematically eroded the main frame to leave every individual and entity emasculated. It is ironical that he was also heading the All India Chess Federation, so apt at one level because his moves were faster than the hand could see. Actually, his board room skills have stood him in very good stead. Srinivasan took over as vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements Limited in 1989. He then made a hostile takeover bid to Andhra Pradesh based Raasi Cements in the 1990s and merged it with India Cements. Subsequently, he made a bid for Yerraguntla plant of the public sector Cement Corporation of India (CCI) and added that to India Cements. It is interesting to peep into Srinivasan’s mindset to understand how combative and competitive he is. His DNA is predicated on being acquisitive.
When the Rs 832-crore India Cements Ltd (ICL) acquired a controlling stake in Raasi Cements by purchasing promoter BV Raju's and 17 others' stake of 32 per cent at an average price of Rs 286 per share, Srinivasan appeared to have achieved the impossible. The Rs 380-crore deal was one of the biggest ever acquisitions in Indian corporate history, and one of the first successful hostile takeover.
It was a landmark deal because it had taken BV Raju 20 years of toil to build Raasi. It became such an emotive issue involving Andhra pride that Dr Anji Reddy of Reddy Labs took a delegation to Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to scuttle the deal. But all manoeuvres failed and Srinivasan captured his prize – all told for approximately Rs 500 crore – including the mandatory 20 per cent open offer. India Cements had two sets of promoters – Srinivasan and his brother N Ramachandran (IOA president incidentally) and the Sanmar Group owned by N Sankar and N Kumar.
As they jousted for control, Srinivasan used his ace of spades – Murosali Maran, then industries minister and relative and closest confidant of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi – to lean on them. In 1990, he acquired the one million tonne cement plant at Chilamkur of Coromandel Fertilisers in Andhra Pradesh at a cost of Rs 105 crore. Next, India Cements commissioned a new nine lakh ton plant in Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs 370 core. Displaying his predatory instincts, ICL further acquired the upcoming Visaka Cement in Andhra Pradesh for Rs 300 crore.
The biggest gambit followed – the takeover of the Yerraguntla plant of the public sector Cement Corporation of India, getting the better of Gujarat Ambuja, the other bidder, because of the tacit support he got from Maran. Earlier, he battled ITC. In the early 1980s he warded off a threat percept from tobacco major ITC, which had acquired shares of LIC and UTI to muscle in. Srinivasan approached the courts and the Company Law Board and got the deal nullified.
Always the winner, Srinivasan has brooked no interference, not from his co-owners Sanmar in the formative years, not from bird of prey ITC, not from his brother N Ramachandran who was executive director ICL, but walked out in August 2009, selling his stake to Srinivasan, and certainly not from anyone in the great big fat Indian cricket fraternity. He is also a user of people – A C Muthiah for TNCA, Sharad Pawar for BCCI among others.
Look at what he did to get a franchise – now a millstone around his neck – Chennai Super Kings. Until September 2008, BCCI regulation, Clause 6.2.4 stated that “no administrator of BCCI could have had, directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by the cricket board.” Later, after the start of IPL in 2008, the clause was amended by Sharad Pawar to give unfavourable benefit to BCCI members such that they can own stakes in the IPL franchise. The number one beneficiary – N Srinivasan. Largesse amounting to Rs 75 crore distributed in the first tranche to former cricketers – two of the most vocal former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, being subdued with Rs 3.5 crore per annum cheques, Rs 50 crore being forked out as infrastructure subsidy to state associations, N Srinivasan’s sweep has been grandiose and effective.
In this quest for remaining at the top, he has either bought peace with his enemies or externed them (Lalit Modi) and even distanced himself from his own son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan – scion of the fabled film house of AVM and a lover of fast cars who has been caught with his hand in the till.
The board, always a secret society, has spawned a nursery of vile corrupt practices – Indian Paisa League – which has ultimately proved to be his biggest bugbear. Police investigations in Delhi and Mumbai have hobbled the BCCI’s showpiece IPL. His own franchise, along with Rajasthan Royals, nailed for betting and match-fixing and stringent court observations on the game, its conduct and the personal handling of Srinivasan itself, have left cricket savants wondering whether they are getting the real deal. Cumulative sins have to be paid for in this life. The circle of life has caught up with the grandmaster, the Supreme Court hopefully will stop him in his tracks. With a little help from a scorned Lalit Modi and his stalking horse Aditya Verma. The bell finally tolls Mr Srinivasan. You have brought the great game into disrepute. By subsuming the game and turning it into a private enterprise.