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Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance acquires a lion’s share of Network 18 and its subsidiaries

TV anchors Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose to resign.

By Tathagata Mitra

BANGALORE: Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has bought a large portion of the Network 18 Media & Investments Limited (NW18) and its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast, investing approximately Rs. 4000 crores ($680 million)in the process.

The board of Reliance approved the massive funding to Independent Media Trust (IMT) of which, Reliance is the sole beneficiary. According to moneycontrol.com (which happens to be a part of Network 18), IMT would use the funds to acquire about 78% in NW18 and 9% in TV18.

The managing director of Network 18, Raghav Bahl is most likely to resign end of this month. Top anchors Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose are also resigning from CNN-IBN by the end of June, as RIL is taking over the company that owns the channel. According to Network 18 officials, Sardesai and Ghosh are probably to go on leave from June 1, and handing in their resignation by end of next month. Sardesai was the Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN since its inception on December 17, 2005.

Prior to today’s unfolding of events, the CEO of Network 18 group, B Sai Kumar resigned yesterday after serving for 14 years. He was the man responsible for Network 18’s news channel’s journalistic ventures and collaborations with CNBC and CNN. He was also responsible for the venture into the entertainment industry that Network 18 did in partnership with Viacom.

“This acquisition will differentiate Reliance’s 4G business by providing a unique amalgamation at the intersect of telecom, web and digital commerce via a suite of premier digital properties,” RIL said in a statement.

Big brand names have been acquired in this suite such as In.com, IBNLive.com, Moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, Cricketnext.in, Homeshop18.com, Bookmyshow.com. The broadcast channels include Colors, CNN IBN, CNBC TV18, IBN7, CNBC Awaaz.

In January 2012, Network 18 Group and Reliance Industries came together  for a deal under which RIL would sell part of its interest in ETV channels and would acquire access to content and distribution assets of the electronic media group. Network 18 Group had completed a Rs 2,053-crore deal to get stakes in different channels of ETV after acquiring all necessary go-aheads as part of its deal with RIL struck in 2012.

Network 18 had so far been successful in acquiring 100% interest in regional Hindi news channels like ETV Uttar Pradesh, ETV Madhya Pradesh and ETV Rajasthan. It had also acquired 50% of the stakes in certain entertainment channel like ETV Marathi, ETV Kannada and ETV Bangla.