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Tehelka made money only for Tejpal family, Shoma Chaudhury

How Tarun Tejpal, the former editor-in-chief, managed to establish Tehelka a big media house especially when the group had meager funds? Some startling revelations on how illegally Tejpal arranged investors and how he used donation money given by several dignitaries in good faith,  have been made in a news report by Firstpost.

According to the report, ‘on one occasion, a share of Rs 10 was sold at a premium of Rs 13,189. And select  founding members of Tehelka were quick to offload their own shares at this price, even when the net asset value of Tehelka’s company, Agni Media Private Limited (now Anant Media Private Limited), was negative.

Meanwhile, those who worked with Tehelka during 2005-06 are clear that the institution was never in robust financial health. “Our salaries were delayed for two months,’’ recalls the then bureau chief of Tehelka, Hartosh Singh Bal. But around the same time, the personal fortunes of some of the shareholders was about to improve dramatically.

Shareholders who benefited despite the miserable finances of Anant Media Pvt Ltd include the Tejpal family and Shoma  Chaudhury, the managing editor who resigned on Wednesday). Other shareholders, like Ram Jethmalani (165 shares), Kapil Sibal (80 shares) and London-based entrepreneur Priyanka Gill (4,242 shares) are sitting on the periphery, their shares more or less dormant. Sibal told the news portal: ‘I don’t even know that Tarun issued shares in my name. I had donated Rs 5 lakh to
Tehelka
in good faith, but I never filled any application for share allotments.’

These 80 shares in Sibal’s name have existed on the books since 2005. And so do Ram Jethmalani’s shares.

It is strange though that Kapil Sibal is not even aware that Tehelka shares have existed in his name since 2005. But he may be right that he gave the money as a ‘donation’ and not to buy shares. Before 2005, Tarun Tejpal had struck a chord with many celebrities while he sought donations. He is said to have collected Rs 2 crore with a donation of Rs 1 lakh each from Bollywood stars, including Aamir Khan and Nandita Das. They all contributed in good faith to see
Tehelka
emerge as an alternative media solely supported by like-minded people.

Shoma Chaudhury was then Editor (Features). Anant Media had allocated 1,500 equity shares to her at a price of Rs 10 each. On 14 June 2006, she sold off 500 shares to AK Gurtu Holdings Private Ltd at a premium of Rs 13,189 per share, thus pocketing Rs 66 lakh (Rs 65,94,500 to be precise). In short, Shoma  Chaudhury’s Rs 5,000 investment (a third of her full investment of Rs 15,000 in buying 1,500 shares) brought her Rs 66 lakh in less than three years.

Statistics show that how Tarun made money in this venture and benefitted only his family.  Tarun Tejpal’s wife Geetan Batra sold off 2,000 equity shares to AK Gurtu at a premium of Rs 13,189, thus getting Rs 2.64 crore.  Tejpal’s brother Minty Kunwar sold 1,500 shares to AK Gurtu for nearly Rs 2 crore. Tejpal’s father Inderjit Tejpal offloaded 1,000 shares to AK Gurtu for Rs 1.32 crore. Tejpal’s mother Shakuntla too sold 1,000 shares to the same company for Rs 1.32 crore and  Tejpal’s sister and Tehelka’s COO Neena T Sharma sold 432 shares for Rs 57 lakh.
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