Vijay Mallya trying to cling on to Royal Challengers Bangalore

MUMBAI (TIP): The fate of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore now lies in the hands of multinational alcoholic beverages company Diageo Plc, who are the new owners of United Spirits Ltd, India’s largest liquor company which Vijay Mallya sold three years ago.

As things stand, it is at Diageo’s discretion that RCB will remain with Mallya. It could also be sold to a new owner soon. RCB is a property JSW Steel is eyeing keenly, a development first reported by TOI in March this year. JSW chairman Sajjan Jindal went public on Wednesday saying he was interested in owning an IPL franchise.

Sources said Mallya, who holds the RCB “very close to his heart”, is pulling all stops to keep the franchise. As part of a possible settlement deal, which would also include some marquee residential assets on the company’s books, Mallya is looking to keep RCB in an exit deal with Diageo.

Two months back, a public stand-off erupted after United Spirits board asked Mallya to step down as chairman following a PwC investigation into the company’s accounts which found improprieties and violations. Mallya has slammed the investigation report for “twisting facts”. UK-based Diageo, which owns 54% stake and controls USL boardroom, is studying the developments and is yet to make public its views on the crisis. Mallya has had meetings with Diageo top brass in London as both parties search for an amicable end, which could see Mallya exit with a negotiated deal.

RCB’s future assumes significance in this context. Diageo could allow Mallya to retain the team after paying a reasonable amount. Mallya also owns an expensive F1 team, Sahara Force India. In the past, he has spoken about building a company with multiple sports franchises.

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Currently in London, Mallya said he would not comment on speculation.

Sajjan Jindal’s son Parth has acknowledged interest in RCB which boasts of some of Twenty20’s most exciting cricketers. JSW owns a Bangalore-based football team in I-League, All India Football Federation’s premier domestic tournament, and has been desperate to add a high-profile franchise to the list given its business interests in Bangalore. Its attempt to bid for a franchise in the Reliance-IMG owned Indian Super League (ISL) did not materialize last year and the Jindals now see RCB as the only option available.

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