Amidst the confusion over East Bengal’s relationship with their current investors, Quess Corp, Chandigarh based Minerva Academy owner Ranjit Bajaj has thrown in his hat to buy 70 percent of Quess East Bengal FC shares and bag the club’s sporting rights for football and cricket.
“I have been in talks with Quess bosses for the last couple of weeks. I am ready to pay the money and buy the 70 percent shares that Quess is holding at the moment,” the former Minerva Football Club owner said on July 8.
Bajaj said, he along with Quess have already prepared a preliminary draft document to start the process, but will wait till the end of this month to make any further moves.
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“As per the agreement between East Bengal and Quess, the club has the right of first refusal in case the investors decide to sell the shares to a third party. Quess is currently negotiating with East Bengal officials on several issues. I will have a chance to step in if East Bengal and Quess fail to agree. Till then, I am waiting on the sidelines,” he said.
Bajaj, who earlier this season sold his club Minerva FC to Mohali based RoundGlass Sports, however, has no idea whether Quess has more offers from other investors.
Quess, which presently holds the sporting rights for football and cricket of the historic Kolkata outfit, have made it clear they wanted the club to buy the shares out before they decide to part company officially.
Without saying in as many words, Quess Corp chairman and managing director Ajit Isaac said: “We are ready to move on. We have sent them [East Bengal Club] a draft agreement. But they are yet to take a call in terms of its conclusion. Since we are under definite timeline to take this agreement to closure, in the absence of EBFC’s timely response, we will be constrained to hand over the rights to any prospective buyer.”
As per the agreement between Quess and East Bengal, out of the 14,78,571 total shares of QEBFC, investors hold 10,35,000 with them. The club through their nominees have 443,571 shares with them. In case Quess takes the hard decision of selling its shares to someone else, then Bajaj would get an opportunity to proceed with the bargain.
Things, however, will not be easy. To hand over the shares and virtual control of the club to a third party, the decision has to be passed by QEBFC’s board of directors. Currently, both sides have four members each in the board, but the investors can still clinch the deal through certain clauses in the share subscription agreement.
Bajaj refused to say how much money he would have to put up on the table to bag the majority shares of East Bengal. “We have drawn up a draft agreement but to reveal the amount will be a breach of trust,” he said.
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Asked whether it was a rather impractical idea for a complete outsider to try and run one of Indian football’s most iconic institutions in Kolkata, Bajaj said it was too early to comment. “Let us keep an eye on the development. All I can say at the moment is that I will feel proud to be associated with a club like East Bengal.
“The problem is, even if I go for an honest deal without disturbing the legality of the issue, there are forces in the Indian football fraternity, who will come together to foil my bid. That’s my biggest worry,” he said.
The relationship between East Bengal and Quess, who joined hands in 2018, turned bitter within months. It went from bad to worse in the 2019-20 season before Quess announced its intention to pull the plug. Sources said the Bangalore based company, however, wanted the club to pay an unknown amount of money before they released the majority shares and sporting rights for football and cricket.
Given the present scenario, East Bengal are definitely in a spot of bother. Without acquiring the ‘release order’ for their sporting right from Quess, the red and yellow brigade would be in no position to participate in domestic competitions, something that has been made ample clear by the All India Football Association (AIFF).
At the same time, it is now a well-known fact the agreement between Quess and East Bengal is a rather lopsided one and heavily tilted towards the investors. It has all the ingredients to make East Bengal’s task tougher.
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