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Luthra for Sony TV in Bombay HC to recover Rs 147 cr BCCI facilitation fee

Luthra & Luthra-Vijay Sondhi
Luthra & Luthra-Vijay Sondhi

IPL (Indian Premier League) broadcasters Sony Entertainment Television yesterday filed a Rs 147 crore recovery suit in the Bombay High Court through Luthra & Luthra against the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and its media rights licensee World Sports Group (WSG).

The Sony-owned petitioner MSM Satellite was represented by Luthra litigation partner Vijay K Sondhi (pictured) and senior advocate Dinyar Madon, seeking a declaration to rescind all contractual obligations following an alleged improper and fraudulent payment of Rs 125 crore plus interest, which WSG had received as a facilitation fee for a grant of media rights.

The plaint reads: "From the info provided by [BCCI], it appears that [WSG] have falsely represented to the Plaintiff that it had entered into an unconditional global media rights agreement dated March 23, 2009 including the Indian sub-continent Media Rights (the Purported MRLA) and had mutually terminated the same to facilitate the MSMS-MRLA dated 25th March, 2009.

"On the basis of the said patently false and fraudulent representation the [WSG] induced the Plaintiff to agree to pay a facilitation fee to the tune of [Rs 425 crores] and has already received a sum of Indian [Rs 125 crores] till now."

Further, submissions were made to uphold the original media rights granted by BCCI to MSM Satellite which is the Singapore based holding company of Sony.

Prayer clause (g) of the suit urged: "Pending hearing and final disposal of the Suit, the [BCCI] and its servants, assigns and agents be restrained by an Order and temporary injunction of this Hon’ble Court from in any manner acting upon and/or issuing any termination notice as contemplated in Clause No. 27.5 (i) of the Indian Premier League Media Rights License Agreement dated 25th March 2009 executed by and between the [BCCI] and [WSG]"

BCCI in-house counsel Raghuraman and advocate Raju Subramanium appeared on behalf of BCCI, who assured the court that the media rights license awarded to Sony would not be cancelled.

WSG was represented by senior advocate Shyam Dewan.

The BCCI had granted worldwide media rights to sports marketing company WGS at the start of the IPL in January 2008 while entering into a separate media rights license with MSM Satellite.

Thereafter, Sony became a sub-licensee of WSG, which charged Sony the contentious fee for media rights under a separate deed during the tenure of ex-IPL commissioner Lalit Modi. It subsequently emerged that the BCCI and not WSG should have been the rightful recipient of this fee.    

Sony meanwhile had agreed pay Rs 425 crores to the BCCI as per an amended agreement, a part of the sum of which Sony seeks to recover in this suit filed against WSG.

Sony subsidiary MSM Satellite stated in a media release: "The BCCI has disclosed certain facts, hitherto not known to MSMS that confirm that the broadcast rights were exclusively with it (the BCCI) immediately prior to and at the time of the grant of the rights by BCCI to MSMS. In light of these new facts MSMS has cancelled all future payment demands that WSG may make vis-a-vis the balance of Rs 300 crores in eight installments spread over the next seven years and has also initiated legal action in India."

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