Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has denied conflict of interest with regard to his position on the IPL governing council. Ganguly was facing an allegation of a commercial tie-up with the RP Sanjiv Goenka group, which has a stake in the Atletico de Kolkata [ATK] football club in Indian Super League (ISL) and, in December, secured the ownership rights to run the Pune franchise in the IPL. In an email to BCCI ombudsman, Justice AP Shah, Ganguly denied that he had any "interest or stake" with New Rising Promoters Pvt Ltd, which won the bid for the Rising Pune Supergiants franchise.
The conflict-of-interest case against Ganguly was filed in January by Mumbai-based freelance journalist Niraj Gunde. In an e-mail to Shah, dated January 28, accessed by ESPNcricinfo, Ganguly admitted he had "about 5%" stake in ATK. "It is true that I have a small stake in Atletico de Kolkata, the football club which participates in the Indian Super League," Ganguly wrote. "Atletico de Kolkata is owned and managed by Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. I am a partner with 6.67% share in 'Catch 22 Informatics LLP' a limited liability partnership which has about 75% share in Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. In other words, my stake in Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd is about 5%."
"However, I have no interest or stake in or connection with New Rising Promoters Pvt. Ltd. which bid at the auction held on December 8, 2016. I am neither a shareholder nor a director of New Rising Promoters Pvt. Ltd or the companies or entities which are its shareholders. I have no personal knowledge of the shareholding pattern of New Rising Promoters Pvt. Ltd."
Ganguly, who is the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, told Shah that having gone through the BCCI's rules on conflict of interest, he "found nothing" that could "enable my association with BCCI [as a member of the IPL Governing Council or as President of CAB] to be construed as a 'conflict of interest' situation because of my interest in Atletico de Kolkata. I cannot and do not perceive any potential conflict situation."
Calling the allegation a "purported complaint", Ganguly wrote that as a player and an administrator, he has always conducted himself with "dignity befitting" the gentleman's game. "Both during my playing days and after my retirement I have always strived to maintain the highest standards of ethics, propriety, morality and decorum in my public and private life. As such, the complaint has left me nonplussed," Ganguly wrote.
In the complaint, Ganguly's failure to not disclose the commercial tie-up with ATK was cited as a case of conflict. Shah had sought responses from the BCCI and Ganguly, and the board said its rules on conflict of interest were "exhaustive". In an e-mail to Shah, dated February 8, Ratnakar Shetty, the board's game development manager who has also been entrusted with the task of overseeing the IPL, said that the BCCI was "unaware" of Ganguly's "links" in ATK.
Shetty told Shah that, on the day the bids were opened, Ganguly reached the venue after the technical bids were assessed. "By the time Sourav Ganguly reached the meeting the technical bids were opened and all the five bidders were found to be eligible and the Chairman of the meeting Mr. Rajeev Shukla and the President BCCI Mr. Shashank Manohar opened the sealed envelopes containing the financial bids and declared the two bidders who were successful in the presence of the five bidders. Mr. Sourav Ganguly was a witness as were the members of the IPL GC," Shetty wrote in the e-mail.
According to Ganguly, there were no questions about the transparency of the bidding process. "[I] was away in London and returned that morning to Delhi and by the time I reached the venue of the meeting the technical bids were already opened by the lawyers appointed by BCCI," Ganguly said. "As a member of the IPL Governing Council it is only then that I came to learn of the bids. After the technical bids were scrutinised by the BCCI legal experts in the presence of all concerned then only were the sealed financial bids of the bidders opened.
"The entire process took place in quick succession in the presence of all bidders. The rule of the bid was that the lowest bidder would get the franchise and New Rising Promoters Pvt. Ltd and another company won the bids for the two teams being the lowest bidder of all the bids. I also state that no one has raised any grievance with regard to the transparency and fairness of the process."