New Delhi: When the late D. L. Agarwal and M. L. Maheshwari founded the Amar Ujala in 1948, they probably didn’t know that their children would be battling it out in the Company Law Board (CLB) for a share of the Hindi daily.
The Uttar Pradesh-based Amar Ujala, the country’s third largest Hindi newspaper is at the heart of the bribery scandal exposed on Tuesday here after CLB member R. Vasudevan was caught accepting a bribe.
Two months ago, Ashok Agarwal (son of D.L. Agarwal), the chairman of the newspaper company, Amar Ujala Publications Ltd, went to CLB against Amar Ujala’s majority stakeholders Atul Maheshwari and Rajul Maheshwari and filed a case under Sections 397 and 398 (prevention of oppression and mismanagement).
Ashok Agarwal holds 17.33% stake in the newspaper company. A person close to the Agarwal family, who declined to be named, said that over the last few months Ashok Agarwal and his son Manu Anand had been sidelined and their role in the company, reduced. Amar Ujala promoter Atul Maheshwari did not respond to repeated attempts to reach him via email, text messages and phone calls. In a text message, Ashok Agarwal’s son Manu Anand said that he was in a long board meeting and could not talk. Ashok Agarwal did not answer his phone.
The first hearing of the case was on 28, October while the second hearing is scheduled for December 14.
Interestingly, Ashok Agarwal, who has now approached CLB, chose to stay with the Maheshwaris while his other two brothers Ajay and Saurabh Agarwal sold their 35.33% stake to Atul Maheshwari for Rs160 crore in 2006. Incidentally, Ajay Agarwal had also approached CLB and had wanted to buy out the Maheshwaris’ share in the business. But CLB objected to a third party funding arrangement he had with a Zee group company. Eventually, Ajay and Saurabh Agarwal exited the business by selling their stake to the Maheshwaris.
Later, Amar Ujala raised Rs117 crore from D.E. Shaw by selling an 18% stake. When the newspaper was launched, Agarwal held a 53% stake in the business while Maheshwari had the remaining 47%.