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March 09, 2009

Why did Sony Entertainment Television's CEO quit?

Businessworld has a cover story on the corporate battle that resulted in Kunal Dasgupta, the CEO of Multi Screen Media (formerly Sony Entertainment Television), quitting just a few months before his contract was due to end.
Dasgupta’s abrupt exit was the culmination of six years of tension between majority shareholder Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI) that owns 61 per cent of MSM, on one hand, and Atlas Equifinn on the other, which is a consortium of Indian shareholders (Singapore-based Rakesh Aggarwal, World Media Group director Sudesh Iyer, Shemaroo Entertainment Managing Director Raman Maroo, MobiApps Holding’s Jayesh Parekh, B.R. Sule, Sushil Shergil and actor Jackie Shroff ) holding 32 per cent. Capital Japan and some financial institutions own the rest 7 per cent. And of course, the third protagonist is Dasgupta, who walked a tightrope and managed to keep his job for over 14 years despite the fact that neither group of shareholders was too happy with him.

Very little information has trickled out of the unlisted MSM, many of whose promoters are based offshore. But there has been continuous jousting between Sony Pictures and the minority Indian partners since the company’s inception. Sony Corporation does not enter into joint ventures as a policy. However, Sony Pictures Entertainment needed a JV in India because in 1995 it represented an opportunity to enter India early when the law then did not allow foreign-owned broadcasting companies. But the relationship between Atlas Equifinn and the Indian investors has been far from easy

With Sony and Atlas at loggerheads, it was Dasgupta’s job to play the balancing act. “He was sometimes the good guy, sometimes the bad. Kunal kept telling Kaplan that he was the only one who could handle the Indians (promoters). And Kaplan believed Dasgupta for quite a while,” says Chris McDonald, currently CEO of Ten Sports and a veteran of cricket broadcasting.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at