Trouble seems to be brewing in paradise as MoneyControl has reported that Bloomberg LP’s joint venture with Raghav Bahl’s Quintillion Media is sailing on troubled water. According to the Money Control report, Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is all set to break the news and data partnership with Quint which is run by Raghav Bahl.
According to the report, Bloomberg is now approaching other media organisations for a tie-up in the hopes of starting a news channel, which will be Bloomberg’s third attempt in India. Bloomberg’s two previous attempts at operating a business TV channel in India, the first with Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV and later with the Anil Ambani group failed.
According to the report in Money Control, Raghav Bahl’s inability to acquire a television license despite trying for it since 2016 and the charges of tax evasion and bribery against Bahl have rattled the Bloomberg LP founder. Bloomberg presumably wants to keep a clean record since he is hoping the become the Democratic nominee for the President of the USA elections against Donald Trump in 2020.
In 2016, Raghav Bahl had applied for a broadcasting license which was summarily rejected by the Indian government. Several reports indicate that the government had rejected the license due to lack of clarity in the application and several security concerns.
After the Indian government refused to grant the broadcasting license, Raghav Bahl tried to be clever by half and decided to buy a shell company – Horizon Satellite Services – that held a news broadcasting licence. His plan was to seek government permission to reboot Horizon, change its name and the board of directors and relaunch it as BloombergQuint, reported Money Control. However, the Indian government rejected this route as well since the security concerns persisted and Bahl was also embroiled in charges of tax evasion.
Bloomberg and Quint had come together to launch a 24/7 Business News Channel. However, that plan has seen no progress in the past two years. Two years ago, Bloomberg and Quint had entered into a 26:74 joint venture and had done a soft launch of their digital news channel. However, since then, the broadcasting license had alluded Bahl. There are now rumours that due to falling out of this Joint Venture, Bahl has had to trim operations and delay vesting of stock options and increments this year.
Answering the Money Control, Raghav Bahl was extremely caustic in his email. “It seems to be at the behest of vested interests who are apparently resentful of the success of BloombergQuint, which has created a strong footprint in the digital space. We are confident that as soon as our broadcast licence is approved, we shall replicate that success in the broadcast market and go further. Since the content of your mail lacks credence and is motivated by vested interests, we do not wish to state anything further”, Bahl said in his email response.
It is pertinent to note here that Raghav Bahl was the owner of TV18 earlier which owned MoneyControl too. Later, the company was acquired by the Ambanis. With all of the history, one has to wonder if Raghav Bahl ended up overselling his capabilities to acquire a broadcasting license which after falling through, ended up affected the prospects of the JV between Bloomberg LP and Quint.