The shadow of Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries (RIL) has hung heavily over the northern editions of the Indian Express for the last seven years, in a marked departure from the late 1980s when Ramnath Goenka‘s paper was seen as Dhirubhai Ambani‘s chief bully and bugbear.
Tongues have wagged incessantly about how well paid Express staffers are given its insignificant circulation and non-existent advertising; about the kind of foreign tieups it stitches up (The Economist one day, Financial Times the other); about the about-turn the paper’s former editor Arun Shourie made as NDA minister; about how comfortable the paper’s current editor Shekhar Gupta looks wth the Reliance gang, and so on.
The bazaar gossip—does Mukesh Ambani have a stake in the Express?—barely evokes any surprise.
In an interview with Shuchi Bansal of Mint, Shekhar Gupta catches the bull by the horns:
“What is there to explain? The shareholding statement is published every year in the paper. Express Holdings and Enterprises Ltd, the holding company, is 100% owned by Viveck Goenka. Then there is Viveck Goenka himself and a small bit of shareholding is with me. The shareholding of every company is listed by every company with the ministry of corporate affairs.
“I am surprised this question gets asked.
“I have handled the management for this company for a long time. This company has gone through due diligence by the finest team of experts in the business. There is no question ever, ever of any corporate whether its name begins with R or T or B or XYZ owning a single share.
“Funding cannot happen under the table. The issue is that the fight between Reliance and Express was vicious that films are being made on it now.
“What is our challenge as editors? We cover Reliance as any other corporate. Sometimes difficult calls have been taken because Express has a campaigning mindset. The solution is to do straightforward classical journalism.
“We are instruments for nobody.”
Read the interview: No question ever of any company owning even a single share in IE