Subhash Chandra’s net worth sinks below Rs 10 crore amid deluge of debt

The reduction in value of Chandra’s assets comes close on the heels of the group’s debt burgeoning to over Rs 12,000 crore, much of which he had raised by pledging his shares to banks and mutual funds in his flagship company ZEEL after many of the groups infrastructure bets did not take off.

He was once in the coveted Fortune list of Indian billionaires, ranked 27th with a net worth of over $4.7 billion in 2018.

However, 70-year-old media baron Subhash Chandra – also a Rajya Sabha member – declared recently that the value of his personal assets had slumped to under Rs 10 crore for FY20.

Chandra, who filed details pertaining to his financials to the Ethics committee of Parliament, said the total value of his assets stood at Rs 9.85 crore.

The media mogul had, in an earlier declaration as required under the rules for members, submitted that his personal assets in FY15 stood at Rs 39.07 crore  – or nearly 4x the present declared value.

An Essel spokesperson, however, declined to comment.

Chandra has been an independent sitting member in the Rajya Sabha since 2016 from Haryana.

The reduction in value of Chandra’s assets comes close on the heels of the group’s debt burgeoning to over Rs 12,000 crore, much of which he had raised by pledging his shares to banks and mutual funds in his flagship company Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) after many of the groups infrastructure bets did not take off.

Through a major restructuring, the group has been able to pay off over Rs 11,500 crore, albeit at a high cost.

In his latest filing, Chandra made it clear he was listing only unencumbered assets.

These include investments in listed and unlisted shares worth Rs 6.18 crore (mostly on book value), with the largest chunk being in Essel Infra Projects (Rs 3.40 crore).

Besides, Chandra has declared assets that include 96.80 grams of gold, bank balances, loans, and advances.

However, he has not declared any immovable asset for FY20, unlike FY15 when he put in the value of a bungalow in Cuffe Parade (Mumbai) that he had bought in 1982 and developed at Rs 30 crore.

Essel group promoters had 41.6 per cent stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), and the initial plan was to sell only 50 per cent stake.

However, following the sale of mortgaged shares by many lenders, burgeoning debt, and the delay in sale of infra projects, they changed strategy and currently their shareholding has reduced to just 4.9 per cent, even though Puneet Goenka runs the business.

It inked a pact with Oppenheimer to sell its 11 per cent stake to the US-based fund manager for Rs 4,224 crore, which was used to pare debt.

In November 2019, Chandra stepped down as chairman of Zee after selling off a major portion of the promoters’ stake in the company, and now serves as chairman emeritus.

Photograph: Reuters

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