THE FAILED ENTREPRENEUR
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It is not for nothing that Lalit Modi is often referred to as cricket czar. Even his enemies grant that if it was Jagmohan Dalmiya who made cricket a saleable business venture, it was Modi who took it to incredible commercial heights. The success of the Indian Premier League (which, according to Modi, has become a $2 billion venture in three years), has stumped the best of marketers.
But outside the cricket pitch, the man has had a poor innings. "He has been a royal failure in most of the businesses he has dabbled in, in the past," says a former business head of one of the many broadcast ventures Modi launched before he took to the business of cricket. "He has been a great success in failing all businesses he launched outside cricket," he adds.
It has been three years since this executive left Modi's company but he still fears his "aggressive streak". "He doesn't appreciate slight," he says.
Going by his trail of business ventures, it's clear that sports and entertainment were his pet sectors. After his forced exit from the US, where he was embroiled in a drugs case, Modi got into father KK Modi's business.
Modi Senior runs a $2 billion enterprise spread across textiles, tyres and tubes, chemicals and consumer goods, among others. But these businesses couldn't hold young Lalit's interest and soon, he set out on his own.
It was the early nineties and the cable and satellite broadcast business was gradually taking roots in the country. Global broadcasters, even in the non-news sector, weren't allowed a free entry. Also, they weren't familiar with the local market and therefore, they preferred a local partner for initial hand-holding. Modi was quick to seize the opportunity and thus, Modi Entertainment Network (MEN) was born.
In 1993, MEN signed an ambitious joint venture with the US-based media conglomerate Walt Disney. WD India Pvt Ltd, the new company in which Walt Disney had 51 per cent stake and MEN held the rest, was given the mandate to introduce Disney's merchandise in the Indian market and to augment its programming on various existing television channels.