The recent notice issued by the Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) banning Prannoy and Radhika Roy, Lutyens Delhi’s original power couple and founders of New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) — India’s pioneer English language television news channel — from functioning as directors of the publicly listed NDTV Ltd, and also from all key managerial positions in any other listed company for two years, has shaken the media world. According to SEBI, the Roys had pledged/sold their NDTV equity shares parked in a wholly owned company RRPR Holdings Ltd without informing other shareholders of the company, a major breach of SEBI’s transparency rules. In a 51-page order, SEBI has charged them with insider trading, concealing price-sensitive information about three loan agreements, not making mandatory disclosures to the stock exchanges, and keeping minority shareholders in the dark.
Although SAT (Securities Appellate Tribunal) has stayed the SEBI order against the Roys and RRPR, the Roys’ wheeling and dealing in the company’s equity shares to reportedly finance an epicurean lifestyle has prompted the scales to fall from the eyes of many admirers of these pioneers of television news broadcasting. According to Lutyens Delhi insiders, the vast sums involved in these cloudy transactions are being blown up on holidays in Tuscany, and a large endowment of almost Rs.200 crore has been conferred on the Roys’ conveniently NRI daughter Tara. The lavish lifestyle of this duo — great pals of Rajiv Gandhi and frequent dining companions of the remnants of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty — sits ill at ease with the bleeding heart, pro-poor liberal television persona of Prannoy Roy, reportedly a former communist.
Admittedly, for your editors there’s an element of schadenfreude in the decline and fall of the Roys. Taken in by the bleeding heart liberalism of NDTV, your editors had repeatedly suggested a mutually beneficial collaboration with the news channel to propagate our mission of QEFA (quality education for all) to the Roys. But we didn’t merit a line in reply. Hence the empathy deficit.