India news June 3, 2013

Dhoni faces conflict-of-interest question

A controversy has arisen over MS Dhoni's involvement with Rhiti Sports Management Private Limited, the company that manages his commercial interests and those of some other India players such as Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja. The company also looks after Chennai Super Kings' marketing.

For a little over one month this year, as admitted by the company, Dhoni owned part of Rhiti, which meant that, at least on paper, he was India captain with a say in the selection of players managed by the company he co-owned and a possible share in the profits that their endorsements yielded. Dhoni was issued the normal category of shares that had been issued to Rhiti Sports' other shareholders, which indicates he was entitled to a proportionate share in the profits.

Rhiti Sports was set up and is run by Dhoni's long-time friend Arun Pandey. By a board resolution dated March 22 this year, a copy of which is with ESPNcricinfo, Rhiti Sports decided to allot 30,000 shares of Rs 10 each to Dhoni, amounting to a 15% stake in the company, along with allotment of 120,000 shares of the same value to Pandey. All along, Dhoni had a potential conflict of interest, with his close friend Pandey managing his endorsements and those of a few cricketers who played under the India and Super Kings captain. With the acquisition of the stake, Dhoni entered into a clear position of being in conflict.

However, according to a statement issued by Rhiti Sports, the shares issued to Dhoni were bought back the following month. "As on date, MSD holds no shareholding in Rhiti Sports Management (P) Ltd," read the statement, signed by Pandey in his capacity as chairman and managing director of the company. "However, it is made clear that shareholding was allotted to MSD on 22.03.2013 only to secure certain old outstandings which were due for more than one year.

"Further, the payments were cleared in April 2013 and the shareholding was transferred back to promoter of the company on 26.04.2013.

"It is made clear that the Management of Rhiti Sports Management (P) Ltd understands its obligations to the field of sport and the country and adheres to the laws of the land."

There has been, however, no documentation so far to support the buying back of shares from Dhoni. Information made available by Rhiti Sports to ESPNcricinfo indicated that the transfer of shares was only a means to "safeguard" Dhoni's money, and the transaction was a part of "routine accounting" that was done on a "day-to-day basis".

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo