What’s public about a private treaty? Times Group has Rs 69 crore stake in gaming platform MPL, the Indian cricket team’s kit sponsor

Conflict of interest is the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time.

The official kit sponsor of the Indian cricket team is MPL: Mobile Premier League, ostensibly a fantasy game. And MPL’s unashamed brand ambassador is the team’s captain Virat Kohli.

The Indian Express reveals today that Kohli has been allotted debentures worth Rs 33.32 lakh in MPL. The paper also shows Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), the company that owns The Times group, owns debentures worth Rs 69 crore in MPL.

“A month after CCDs were issued to Kohli and Cornerstone, on March 21, 2019, Galactus allotted 14,285 CCDs of face value Rs 100, each at a premium of Rs 48,900 to Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd (BCCL) for Rs 69.99 crore.

“The CCDs will be converted into equity shares after 10 years, with the conversion ratio fixed at 1:1, i.e., one equity share for one CCD. Despite repeated attempts, BCCL was unavailable for comment.

If it is a Times “private treaty”—an ads for stake deal—expect to see a lot of MPL ads in Times Group newspapers and on its cricket website Cricbuzz, without any disclosure that it owns a part of the company.

And periodic editorials to legalise betting.

***

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly is the face of Dream 11, another fantasy game which is but a quasi gambling app, whose brand ambassador was former captain M.S. Dhoni.

In July 2020, The Indian Express linked Dream 11 to a fake T20 league.

A website owned by Dream XI’s parent company, in which Chinese giant Ten Cent is invested, streamed a match being played in a village in Punjab as being played in Sri Lanka.

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