LALIT MODI IPL SCAM
India is a vast country with diversity galore. The different parts of the country are separated not just by geographical distance, but by years of tradition, customs, food habits and culture. You can imagine how hard it can be to find a common denominator which has the power of uniting a country of 130 crore individuals. Over the ages, we Indians have found one thing that we all love equally.
Our love for cricket is one that knows no bounds, no caste, no religion and no discrimination. When it comes to this particular sport, all rhyme and reason simply goes out the window.
In the past decade or so, the game of cricket has gotten bigger. Nowadays, apart from the international world cup and the several series of test, one day and twenty-twenty tournaments, there is also the Indian Premier League, better known as IPL.
IPL was launched in 2008, and since then, it is taken over the country like wildfire. A novel concept which was introduced in India for the first time, the IPL became hugely popular all over the country. As it is with most events associated with copious amounts of fame and popularity, the IPL too has generated its share of controversy and scandal. A lot of that is entwined around the person that introduced the IPL in India, Lalit Modi.
That, my dear friends, is why we are gathered here today.
I am going to tell you about the story of Lalit Modi, the birth of IPL and where it all went wrong.
Let us start at the beginning, shall we?
Lalit Modi was born in Delhi in 1963. The elder son of Kishan Kumar Modi, Lalit grew up in a business family and learnt a lot from his father and grandfather with regard to their management of the family business. However, Lalit was always his own person, and he transferred the skills he absorbed from his family into other avenues of business.
After completing his schooling from Shimla and Nainital, Lalit was sent to the United States to pursue electrical engineering and business administration. He was enrolled in Pace University for two years and then Duke University for one year. Always a troublemaker and a wilful individual, he was soon embroiled in controversies in the US. In 1985, Lalit was arrested by the police and charged with cocaine trafficking and second-degree kidnapping.
It is hard to imagine a well-to-do young man from a prominent family to get involved in such dubious activities, isn’t it?
Well, Lalit was smart, to say the least, and he entered into a plea bargain with the Durham County Court. He reduced his prison sentence down to 100 hours of community service in North Carolina. However, in 1986, he obtained permission from the court to return to India on account of his ill health.
Once back in India, Lalit started his career at his family business. He joined Godfrey Phillips India, which was a joint venture between Modi Enterprises and Philip Morris International. Here too, Lalit’s sharp business acumen shone through and he was promoted to Executive Director in 1992.
Lalit yearned for the chance to start his own business and this chance finally appeared in 1993 in the form of Modi Entertainment Network. This company was started in order to facilitate the streaming and viewing of international programs and events in India. Lalit formed strategic partnerships with a number of international entertainment and sports channels, and started distributing their content in India. The first major contract that Modi Entertainment Network bagged was a ten-year partnership with Walt Disney Pictures.
However, most of these partnerships turned to be one-time-only deals, and once the ten years period was over, the companies did not express any desire to renew the contracts. This is owing to the way that Lalit Modi conducted business. Even though the terms of the contract were probably fulfilled, Lalit was not the easiest person to deal with. The companies that he tied up with all complained of a lack of transparency in the way that Modi Entertainment Network conducted its business. This turned out to be a major deal-breaker, and the apparent success of Lalit’s company was short-lived.
Undeterred by this failure, Lalit set his sights onwards onto the next big opportunity.
This is when he turned to cricket.
Like any self-respecting Indian, Lalit was extremely aware of the unequalled passion that this sport-inspired in the hearts of his countrymen. His stint in the US had also introduced him to the concept of private sports leagues such as the NBA. These leagues are characterised by the presence of private teams which acquire players on a contractual basis.
The difference is that you don’t just play for your country, you also play for entertainment and to earn money. As is obvious from the success of the European football leagues and the American basketball and baseball leagues, this is a hugely profitable business. It functions as a win-win situation — it generates profit for the organisers and the teams, and creates a source of entertainment for the spectators and all those involved.
Such a concept had not entered into India. Before the IPL, we only supported one cricket team — the Indian national cricket team. The fact that there could be smaller privately owned teams had not occurred to anyone.
Lalit realised that this was a golden opportunity and he jumped on it. In 1995, he pitched this idea to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). However, he did not manage to convince the Board of the genius of his vision and he was shot down.
In spite of the poor reception, Lalit was determined to not give up on this idea. Instead, he decided to take a different route. Lalit realised that in order to execute this vision, he would have to obtain a more influential role in the BCCI. However, the BCCI was a selective and powerful body. They would not allow just anybody to join their ranks. Instead, in order to be taken as a credible candidate, Lalit would have to gain some experience through a state cricket board.
Strengthened by his resolve, Lalit Modi joined the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association in 1999. He rose through the ranks and increased his influence. By 2004, Lalit was the Vice-President of the Punjab Cricket Association. Soon afterwards, he was elected as the President of the Rajasthan Cricket Association. Using strategic moves and planning, Lalit was finally elected as the Vice-President of the BCCI in 2005.
Now that he had reached his goal, Lalit focussed his attention to making his dream of IPL a reality. Concentrating on the commercial side of the cricket business, Lalit took several business decisions which greatly increased the revenue earned by the BCCI. In fact, the three year period between 2005 and 2008 saw a seven-fold increase in revenue.
2008 saw the launch of the Indian Premier League. This was a novel concept in India and took the entire country by a storm. It was immensely popular and a huge success. The IPL was the new thing in the world of cricket. All the best players wanted to be a part of it, and all the biggest entrepreneurs wanted a share of the prize. From industrialists like Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya to Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta, they all flocked to this new sporting league. Before long, IPL was one of the biggest sports leagues in the world and worth over $4 billion.
However, by 2010, Lalit Modi had been separated from his dream child. Embroiled in scandals and controversies, he had to leave India and flee to London.
What went wrong?
Where did the controversies start?
Well, as we all know, there is never any smoke without fire.
As the success of the IPL grew, so did Lalit’s practice of nepotism. In fact, it was later revealed that Lalit used the growth of the IPL to divert a number of profitable deals towards his family and friends.
One of the major examples is the ownership of the Rajasthan Royals. Lalit made sure that the majority stake in this profitable franchise went to none other than his brother-in-law, Suresh Chellaram. This was a blatant example of abuse of power and did not sit well with the other board members of the BCCI.
The other major example was the controversy surrounding the ownership of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala franchise. The team from Kochi was supposed to be a new addition to the league in 2010. The big for this team was won by Rendezvous Sports World, a consortium of investors. Sunanda Pushkar, who later became the wife of Shashi Tharoor was one of the equity holders in this consortium. This deal was supposed to be a confidential agreement. However, Lalit Modi violated the terms of this agreement when he tweeted the details of the transaction and released it to his social media followers.
This seemingly innocent act led to a series of events, each more grave than its predecessor. Shashi Tharoor was accused of corruption and misuse of his influence and power as the Minister of External Affairs for financial gains. The charges amounted to such extents that Tharoor was ultimately forced to resign from his post.
This started the downfall for Lalit Modi.
Soon after these events, BCCI suspended Lalit Modi and removed him from his post as the Chairman of the IPL after the revelation of the dubious deals which had taken place over the past few years. As more and more got revealed, the charges against Lalit mounted. Eventually, the Enforcement Directorate was involved and they started an in-depth investigation into the charges against Lalit. He was forced to flee to London, where his wife’s family resided.
Since then, the charges against Lalit Modi have only increased. In fact, in 2015, a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against him on charges of money laundering. However, Lalit never returned to India, and the charges against him could never be processed to completion.
This is probably not the ending you were expecting.
Lalit Modi is still residing in London. He is far from unhappy to be away from home. As long as he does not return to India voluntarily, the Indian agencies cannot arrest and extradite him. The mastermind as ever, Lalit is very aware of this fact, and will probably not set foot in the country until the myriad charges against him are dropped.
This, however, is not one of those stories where you learn by example. It is the opposite, in fact. Lalit Modi comes from a family that is very influential and wealthy. Over the course of his career, he himself has increased that influence and financial strength. He now has the power to live life on his terms and not care about the many arrest warrants against his name.
Normal people, however, do not have that luxury. It will be extremely unwise to follow in Lalit’s footsteps and expect the same treatment. The only thing we can absorb from this is a tale in caution. Even if he has fled to London, Lalit was still rudely separated from his brainchild, the IPL. Today, he has lost the respect of his country and is living a life in exile. Barring the luxuries, this is not a desirable way of life at all.
So practice caution and don’t be like Lalit Modi.