Zee's Subhash Chandra Wrote To Finance Minister For Help Before Sony Merger Collapse

Just a week before the collapse of Zee Entertainment’s $10 billion merger with Sony Pictures, Subhash Chandra, Zee’s promoter, reached out to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Chandra sought intervention to protect the interests of Zee’s minority shareholders, suspecting efforts to derail the Sony merger.

What Happened? In a letter accessed by CNBC-TV18, Chandra didn’t oppose the probe by market regulator SEBI but questioned the timing of the new notice, fearing it might harm Zee’s minority shareholders financially. He stressed that the new notice raised no new issues beyond what Zee had already shared with SEBI.

Following Sony’s termination of the merger and its demand for $90 million in termination fees, Zee’s shares plummeted by 30%, the biggest single-day fall in its history, erasing over ₹7,000 crore in market capitalization.

See also: Disney Star Faces $2-Bn Hit In Wake of Sony-Zee Merger Fallout: Here’s Why

Chandra referenced a Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) decision that overturned SEBI’s order barring him and Punit Goenka from key managerial roles at Zee. Post this reversal, Goenka was reinstated as Zee’s MD & CEO. Chandra expressed concerns about sensationalizing the issue in the media, recalling similar apprehensions communicated to SEBI in 2018 about forces negatively impacting Zee’s valuation.

Despite reducing the promoter family’s stake in Zee to 4% from around 40% through multiple stake sales, Chandra highlighted his efforts in repaying nearly 92% of his ₹40,000 crore debt.

As SEBI nears the end of its investigation against Chandra and Goenka, allegations of fund siphoning and book manipulation are under scrutiny, with suspected misuse of funds escalating to ₹800-₹1,000 crore.

Price Action: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. shares were trading 5.67% higher at ₹164.80 at midday on Wednesday.

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Posted In: M&ANewsManagementMediaPunit GoenkaSubhash ChandraZee Entertainment