India's powerful cricket chief bowled out
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Lalit Modi, former chief of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, has often courted controversy, whether as a businessman who invented "cricketainment" or as a child who ran away from school.
But the controversy over one of the world's richest sports leagues, which he almost single-handedly turned into a $4.1 billion (2.7 billion pound) enterprise with millions of fans, is arguably the biggest, with graft allegations ensnaring top politicians and Bollywood stars, and straining the government coalition.
Modi himself, hailed as the man with the Midas Touch, was suspended minutes after a grand finale to the third edition of the IPL, which tax authorities are probing after allegations of influence sparked the resignation of a junior foreign minister.
He has been given 14 days to answer charges that he denies. For story see
"People pressurising me to resign - I can tell you will not happen. Let them remove me then," a defiant Modi tweeted at the weekend, thanking more than 101,000 followers for their support.
It was an earlier tweet by Modi on the ownership of a new IPL franchise that exposed political interference in a $333 million team bid that led to Shashi Tharoor's resignation.
The stormy scenes in parliament and the media fracas that followed were a stunning fall from grace for Modi, who appeared to do no wrong in the last three years when he rubbed shoulders with politicians, business tycoons and IPL's franchise owners.
Scion of a wealthy business family, Modi was a rank outsider to India's old boys' club of cricket and ruffled many feathers in his attempts to get a foothold in the board.
But once ensconced as a vice president, he quickly changed its fortunes, striking lucrative marketing and licensing deals that helped transform it into the world's wealthiest board.
In 2008 he created IPL, a domestic league based on Twenty20 cricket, with eight franchises that were snapped up by top Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and industrialists such as Reliance Industries' Mukesh Ambani, the world's fourth richest man.
Multi-million dollar endorsement deals, blonde cheerleaders and glitzy after parties quickly came to define the sport's richest tournament, which has been seen as another example of India's growing economic clout in the global arena.
It attracted the world's top cricketing talent, but also drew criticism from traditionalists and strained ties further with Pakistan after Pakistani players failed to get bids earlier this year.
Through it all, Modi, 46, usually seen chatting on his mobile phone or scrolling his Blackberry, seemed inscrutable amidst the raucous IPL crowds, wearing his title of one of the most powerful men in cricket lightly on his stylish designer suits.
His rising status seen in his flashy cars, a yacht and armed guards for his teenaged son, Modi was named the second most powerful person in Indian sport by Sports Illustrated magazine.
He was placed next only to iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar, and ahead of liquor baron Vijay Malaya, who owns an IPL team and a Formula One team and Sharad Pawar, a federal minister and president-elect of the International Cricket Council.
Modi, who is said to make decisions quickly and have little tolerance for opposition, went toe-to-toe with the home minister last year over the IPL schedule which clashed with the national election, eventually taking the tournament to South Africa in a matter of days with the help of his extensive network.
Now, the IPL is in danger of seeing its value erode, which "will send a shock wave through the entire ecosystem of stakeholders covering fans, corporates, sponsors, players and franchisee owners," noted consultancy Brand Finance.
But while many in cricket-crazy India have bemoaned the influence of politics and business, Modi still has many fans among IPL team owners and his followers on Twitter.
"Lalit Modi has done a very, very good job, in fact an outstanding job, with the IPL and Indian cricket," said Malaya.
"I will fiercely protect the IPL...(it) is most important."
(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this