What was bazaar speculation for quite a while is now a matter of record. Aroon Purie, the bossman of the India Today group, has divested over a quarter of his holding in Living Media India Limited, in favour of one of India’s richest men, Kumar Mangalam Birla for an undisclosed sum
(Business Standard reports that the deal may have been worth Rs 35o crore).
The stake sale brings one of India’s biggest corporate houses, the Aditya Birla group, into mainstream magazine and television space (the K.K. Birla group owns the newspaper Hindustan Times); sets up a clash of telecom titans for the 4G space (Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries has bought into the TV18 network); and raises questions over growing corporate ownership of the media.
Below is the internal note shot off by Ashish Bagga, the group CEO of the India Today group, at 9.10 pm on Friday, 18 May 2012:
I am pleased to inform you of a significant development for the INDIA TODAY group.
Just this afternoon, the $35-billion Indian multi-national, ADITYA BIRLA GROUP (ABG) and your company, which is India’s most respected and diversified media corporation, have come to an agreement for a 27.5% financial investment by a private investment company of the Aditya Birla Group in our holding company, Living Media India Ltd.
Commenting on the investment, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla group said: “The Indian media sector is a sunrise sector from our investment point of view. I believe that the India Today group offers one of the best opportunities of growth and value creation. ITG’s management ethos, values, brands, product portfolio and future plans offer one of the best opportunities for growth and value creation.”
Aroon Purie, our chairman said, “I am delighted to partner with the Aditya Birla Group to aggressively address the current and future potential of the Indian media business which is at a tipping point. The Aditya Birla group with its strong leadership, global footprint, diversified business interests and its shared values of integrity, commitment and social responsibility make it a perfect fit with the India Today group.”
By virtue of this development, your company will embark on a high growth and expansion strategy across all its existing and new businesses.
I look forward to a successful and trail-blazing future.
Ashish Bagga, group CEO
Image: courtesy Mail Today
Advent of news channels changed the scenario altogether. India Today no more evokes the kind of enthusiasm it did in its initial two decades. Fact is not even Akbar could inject any life into it. In recent years, it was Yawn…Yawn… But the Q is can the Birlas help REINVENT it? And, how?
During the early 1980s, when I was a student, I used to beg for money from my parents to buy the India Today magazine. It was riveting reading then.
Now, I get copies of India Today free, every week, when I fill petrol in my car. I hardly ever even flip through them.
[…] Good news: ‘Media sector is a sunrise sector’ […]