Lalit Modi, the former IPL chairman, has denied rigging the second IPL team auction, said everyone in the IPL and BCCI was aware of his family and friends being part of the original team auction in 2008, and stated that World Sport Group (WSG) deserved the controversial $80 million facilitation fee it received for selling the broadcast rights of the Twenty20 league to Multi-Screen Media (Sony).
In an interview broadcast on his YouTube channel on Thursday, Modi said the bidding process for the auction held in March 2010 was open and conducted under international tender rules and, therefore, there was no question of influencing it. “If that was the case why did Adani not win? Why did Videocon not win? Sahara won it for $370 million because it was an open process. Kochi won. If it was going to be a rigged process they [Adani and Videocon] would have won.” Modi had been accused of favouring the Gujarat-based Adani group, which wanted an IPL team for Ahmedabad but lost out to Kochi and Sahara in the March auction.
Modi claimed that as with any pioneering product, he was bound to upset “the old establishment” by changing the way things are done. “If we did not change rules, we would not be where we are.” He went to admit that “of course we made some mistakes, but if we hadn’t made some mistakes, I wouldn’t have corrected them and made it better and that is why we are the world’s hottest league”.
On the allegations that he used the IPL to enrich his family, Modi told the interviewer, the UK-based sports journalist Mihir Bose, that the BCCI was fully aware of the fact that some of his relatives were involved. It was no surprise friends and family decided to bid, he said, because they were the ones that believed in him while almost everybody else expected the IPL to fail. “When somebody turns around and says that they didn’t know about it it’s absolutely a false story … The people who bid were in the room, everybody knew who they were…I mean everybody concerned, from the governing council to the BCCI members, were very much present in the room, and in fact everybody was just happy at that point in time because we got eight bids.
“In fact [IPL] vice chairman Niranjan Shah was questioned immediately after the auction… ‘Mr Modi’s relatives have bid’, he said, ‘so what, there are no other bidders out there, and if he has bid he has put his own money in’. If it wasn’t friends and family that are coming to bid and believed in the product, they wouldn’t have had the IPL in the first place.”
Modi also defended the payment of the facilitation fee to WSG, saying he was happy they made money, and that what people did not realise was that WSG were the only bidders willing to take the risk and bid for the rights in the first year of the league. “Sony actually bid but withdrew prior to the bids being opened. ESPN bid but they put zero numbers on the table, so their bid was disqualified. They said we don’t think this is going to work; we’ll do a revenue-sharing deal with you. The only company that put any money on the table above the minimum guaranteed amount was WSG. And then they did a back-to-back licensing deal with Sony.
“Now, what is the job of a marketing company, which we all forget? A marketing company’s job is to buy and sell rights. So if they bought a right worth close to $2 billion, as an example, and they sold it for $2 billion [and] $80 million to someone else, as an example, and they made $80 million, what’s wrong with that? I’m surprised they only made $80 million.”
The facilitation fee is now a matter of arbitration between the BCCI and WSG at the International Chambers of Commerce in Singapore.
Despite the many accusations and legal proceedings that currently involve him, Modi has remained in London and said it was because of a risk to his life if he returned to India. “My security agencies have advised me that it’s not appropriate to go back till the security situation smoothens out. And the Indian police have continuously told me that the threat perception exists and as and when I feel comfortable with that factor I would go back.”
He said he does not regret his comments on Twitter about the shareholding of the Kochi consortium, which eventually led to his expulsion from the league he created and built, and which also precipitated the the resignation of junior external affairs minister Shashi Tharoor, who was acting as a mentor to the bidding group. Kochi is now on the verge of being expelled from the IPL as well, having been unable to resolve their ownership differences.
Modi also denied making any money personally from the tournament, and said he was confident the various proceedings against him would prove his innocence. “It’s going to end with my getting a clean slate.”