Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a member of the Rajya Sabha and vice-chairman of the NDA in Kerala, is one of the largest investors and a director in journalist Arnab Goswami’s upcoming media venture. The venture, named Republic, applied for uplinking and downlinking of a news channel in late November.
Republic will be part of a company called ARG Outlier Media Private Limited. Goswami was appointed managing director of ARG Outlier on November 19, a day after he left Times Now as its editor-in-chief. Chandrasekhar, through companies owned by him, has invested over Rs 30 crore in ARG Outlier.
Apart from Chandrasekhar’s Asianet News Online Private Limited, SARG Media Holding Private Limited — also owned by Goswami — is the main investor in ARG Outlier. SARG, in which Goswami and his wife Samyabrata Ray Goswami are directors and own most of the equity, had investments from 14 other individuals and companies towards the end of November, according to latest information available with the Registrar of Companies. SARG, as of November 24, 2016, had invested Rs 26 crore in ARG Outlier, through various investments.
The largest investor in SARG is Ranjan Ramdas Pai of Aarin Capital Partners, which he co-founded with Mohandas Pai, who has invested Rs 7.5 crore. Ramakanta Panda, who owns Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, has invested Rs 5 crore while Hemendra Kothari, one of the most successful investors of India, has put in Rs 2.5 crore. Other investors include R Naresh and Shobhana Ramachandhran of TVS Tyres, and Niranjan Shah, owner of Renaissance Jewellery in Mumbai and SRF Transnational Holdings. Sameer Manchanda and two other persons related to his DEN Networks — Sanjeev Manchanda and Tapesh Virendra Singhi — have invested over Rs 2.5 crore in SARG, cumulatively. Sameer Manchanda was involved in launching Raghav Bahl’s CNN-IBN, as part of his Network18 group, along with Rajdeep Sardesai in December 2005, about a month before Goswami launched Times Now under the Times Group.
Chandrasekhar, who has been a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka since 2006, was appointed vice-chairman of NDA in Kerala in September 2016.
Through his companies, he has major investments in Asianet News Network in Kerala, and Suvarna News and Kannada Prabha in Karnataka.
On September 21, Amit Gupta, chief operating officer of Jupiter Capital, through which Chandrasekhar owns media investments, emailed editorial heads. He wrote that all editorial talent to be hired should be “right of center in his / her editorial tonality”, “Pro-India, Pro-Military”, “aligned to Chairman’s ideology” (chairman being Chandrasekhar) and “well familiarised” with the chairman’s thoughts on “nationalism and governance”. The email ended: “Offers being rolled out shall be summarised and shared with Chairman’s office as regards the credentials (only) and hiring managers have to ensure that the above has been ticked appropriately.” Gupta, however, requested the email be “ignored” the next day.
Chandrasekhar’s Jupiter Capital also has investments in defence-related companies. Axiscades Engineering Technology Limited, a subsidiary of Jupiter, signed contracts with the Defence Ministry for supplying Aircraft Recognition Training Systems to the Army and IAF for 18 months and a multi-year annual maintenance contract in March 2016.
Chandrasekhar is on the Defence Ministry’s Consultative Committee and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence. An email to Chandrasekhar’s office and a message to Goswami’s phone did not elicit any response.