Top Zee Investor Calls For Removal of Punit Goenka from Board of Directors

Invesco also asked for the resignation of two independent directors, both of whom appear to have resigned on Monday of their own accord.

New Delhi: The largest shareholders of Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) have called for an extra-ordinary general meeting to remove Punit Goenka, managing director of the company and son of group patriarch Subhash Chandra, from the firm’s board of directors.

The two institutional investors — Invesco Developing Markets Fund and OFI Global China Fund LLC, which together own a 17.88% stake in the company — also called for the removal of two of Zee’s independent directors (Ashok Kurien and Manish Chokhani).

In a quick turn of events though,  Chokhani and Kurien both resigned of their own accord. According to filings made by Zee Entertainment with the Bombay Stock Exchange, Chokhani resigned “due to changed life circumstances and perspective post Covid,” whereas Kurien has cited “pre-occupation” as the reason for his resignation.

Invesco and OFI Global’s moves to upend the board of Zee Entertainment was brought to the notice of shareholders late on Monday night.

Filings made by Zee Entertainment also note that the funds had also sought the appointment of six of its own nominees on the firm’s board of directors.

The proposed new directors are: Surendra Singh Sirohi, Naina Krishna Murthy, Rohan Dhamija, Aruna Sharma, Srinivasa Rao Addepalli and Gaurav Mehta.

However, being a media company, Zee Entertainment requires approval from the Information & Broadcasting ministry for the appointment of any new independent directors.

“Accordingly, we request the company submit an application with the Ministry seeking approval for the appointment of the proposed independent directors at the earliest,” it said.

It is unclear how Zee Entertainment and the Chandra family, which currently own only around 4% of the company, plan on reacting to Invesco’s challenge. The promoters have over the last two years had to sell a majority of their stake in the company to pay off the Essel Group’s massive debt.

“The Company is examining the said letter, its related attachments and will take necessary action as per applicable law,” Zee said in a filing to the stock exchange.