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In cricket or business,N. Srinivasan used to having his way

BCCI chief,India Cements owner juggles both jobs and interests in golf,friendships in politics,belief in vaastu.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai,chennai,kolkata |
May 29, 2013 1:14:34 am

N. Srinivasan,cricket board chief and India Cements owner,juggles both jobs along with interests in golf,friendships in politics and belief in vaastu

I work very long hours,” Narayanaswami Srinivasan said in an interview to The Financial Express last year on how he managed to handle both cricket and cement. Related: Cement major to cricket controller

Those who have watched him work in both fields describe him in various ways. In Chennai’s business circles,he has always been regarded as a bull whose aggression helped turn around the loss-making India Cements.

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In cricket,those in the board president’s camp see a meticulous administrator who ensured that not one payment was delayed in his time as treasurer,a perfectionist who is always open to new ideas. Those in the opposite camp see him as someone who quashes all opposition,but even they agree he is one of the finest sports administrators the country has seen.

N. Srinivasan,67,is known to be close to M Karunanidhi and his nephew Murasoli Maran whose party,the DMK,is credited with allowing his business to grow by creating a favourable policy environment,besides backing him in the state cricket body elections. Until last season,Karunanidhi would be a constant feature at the Chepauk’s VIP box whenever Srinivasan’s Chennai Super Kings played at home.

Srinivasan is also a man of varied interests. The chemical engineer is a firm believer in vaastu; he once changed the location and timing of a deal with Raasi Cement three times,says a businessman from Chennai. He developed his interest in cricket late. He used to play hockey in his youth,then turned to golf. He is president of the Tamil Nadu Golf Federation.

The businessman

Srinivasan is today one of the highest paid business chiefs of the country,having earned Rs 14.86 crore in 2011-12. His daughter,Rupa Gurunath,a director in India Cements,earned Rs 3.94 crore the same year. Rupa,wife of Gurunath Meiyappan who has been arrested in the IPL spot-fixing scandal,is being groomed to take over the reins from Srinivasan,whose son Ashwin is estranged from him because of his sexual orientation.

Srinivasan took over India Cements,a family business,after he returned to India from the US,having done a postgraduate course in chemical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology. With another Illinois alumnus,N Shanker,Srinivasan turned around the company and then bought out Shanker who too,incidentally,has been president of a state cricket association.

In 1998,Srinivasan aggressively acquired the Andhra Pradesh-based Raasi Cement,following that up with three more companies — a plant of the public sector Cement Corporation of India,and one each of Visaka Cements and Shri Vishnu Cement — in successive years and more than doubling India Cements’ capacity. But the market decelerated and his acquisitions created a debt wall of Rs 1,700 crore,leading to a corporate debt restructuring in 2005,the sale of some assets including Shri Vishnu Cement,and a layoff of employees.

Srinivasan then boldly issued equities in the international market through global depository receipts. He couldn’t raise the money from domestic markets as his company had defaulted on payments to banks in India. The issue clicked and the company raised Rs 497 crore,which helped it pare its debts.

India Cements today has a turnover of Rs 4,600 crore and an annual capacity of over 15 million tonnes,along with interests in shipping,finance and cricket. Srinivasan bought three bulk carriers to revive the shipping business,besides buying the CSK franchise,all of which put his company under financial stress.

Its net profit,Rs 432 crore in March 2009,has dipped to Rs 163.6 crore in March 2013. The interest cost has ballooned 28.7 per cent in the same period,from Rs 112 crore to Rs 308 crore.

The politics

Srinivasan had been brought into the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association by former BCCI president A C Muthiah,with whom he later fell out. Srinivasan became the TNCA vice-president in 1998 and president in 2002,nominated by Muthiah.

Srinivasan then set about establishing his own clout. A public spat over TV rights followed in 2005. The 2008 election pitched Srinivasan,backed by the DMK,against Muthiah,who happens to be related to P Chidambaram.

In 2001,when the two were still close,Muthiah had lost a bitterly contested BCCI presidential election. “In retrospect,I believe he (Srinivasan) worked against me,” says Muthiah.

In the BCCI,Srinivasan was said to be part of the Sharad Pawar camp. After Jagmohan Dalmiya was ousted in 2005 and Pawar became president,Srinivasan was made treasurer.

Because of his DMK connections,Srinivasan has rivals in the AIADMK camp. As president of the Tamil Nadu Golf Federation,he came under attack from J Jayalalithaa over the lease for a 77.70-acre golf course in Chennai. In 1996,when holder Cosmopolitan Club’s lease came up for an extension,the federation too petitioned then chief minister Karunanidhi. The lease was eventually granted to both the golf federation and the club.

In 2002,when Jayalalithaa became chief minister,she alleged inside the assembly that the lease had been given because Srinivasan was a “benami for Murasoli Maran”. Her government initiated steps to cancel the lease,a battle she renewed after returning to power last year. The move was struck down by the Madras High Court this February.

It is is said to be mainly because of Srinivasan’s connection with Karunanidhi that the TNCA faces trouble in connection with the Chepauk’s renovation. A source in Tirunelveli says that whenever Karunanidhi visits the district,he stays at India Cements guesthouse.

And the day the CBI searched Karunanidhi’s son M K Stalin’s residence for an imported SUV,it also paid a visit to Srinivasan’s house because he reportedly had several such imported vehicles.

Srinivas’s lawyer P S Raman,who also represents the BCCI,was state advocate general during the DMK regime.

The sports administrator

Over the years,India Cements has supported and provided jobs to a number of international and state cricketers from across South India. Many of them,such as Sridharan Sharath and J Madanagopal,now head one or the other of the 160-odd cricket clubs (out of 192 based in Chennai) that India Cements owns or has a stake in. It was under Srinivasan’s leadership that inter-district tournaments began to be held systematically.

After India Cements won the bid for CSK franchise,the board amended its constitution,allowing its members to have commercial interests in IPL. His clout growing in the BCCI,Srinivasan became its secretary in 2008 and ran most of its affairs,with then president Sashank Manohar preoccupied elsewhere.

In 2010,Srinivasan became the BCCI’s president-elect,a newly created post; the same year,he amended the TNCA constitution to become its lifetime president. In 2011,Muthiah raised the conflict-of-interest issue to stop Srinivasan taking over as president. The matter is in court.

Srinivasan continues to have his way. It is under him that the BCCI has arm-twisted other ICC members into agreeing that DRS is never used when India are playing. Selector Mohinder Amarnath accused him of interfering and was shunted out; the selectors had wanted to relieve M S Dhoni of India’s captaincy. Very recently,Srinivasan has been accused of pressuring other Test-playing nations to vote for his candidate Laxman Sivaramakrishnan in the ICC cricket committee.

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