MS Dhoni has 15% stake in sports marketing firm that manages teammates: Report

MS Dhoni (right) and four other Indian cricketers are associated with the firm, according to the report © PTI

New Delhi: Jun 3, 2013

India captain MS Dhoni has a 15 per cent stake in a sports marketing firm that manages him along with four other Indian cricketers, according to a report in the Economic Times. This raises the question of propriety and conflict and interest against Dhoni — as a businessman and India skipper.

The firm, called Rhiti Sports Management, is set up by Arun Pandey, a close friend and business associate of Dhoni. According to the report, along with Dhoni, the firm also manages four players who play under the 31-year-old Indian skipper — Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh, who has since dissociated himself from the company.

The issue of conflict of interest against Dhoni arises since he is the Indian captain and has a say in team selection involving the said players. Two of the players — Raina and Jadeja — are also part of the Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings IPL outfit. “There is definitely a conflict of interest in this case,” says former cricketer Kirti Azad, who was also a selector in 2002-03. “The players managed by Dhoni’s company will have an unfair advantage,” said another former India cricketer Maninder Singh, in agreement.

Dhoni did not respond to an email questionnaire sent to him by the Economic Times on May 31, while Pandey declined comment. Anurag Thakur, joint secretary of the BCCI, said, “I have heard it for the first time. “If there is a concern, we may look into the matter.”

“Dhoni is part of the corridors of power,” says Rahul Mehra, a lawyer who has been railing against sports management in India. “Which selector will oppose Dhoni when he is a part of the think-tank in CSK, which is owned by a company of the BCCI president, and he himself is a vice-president in that company?”

However, Thakur contradicted the claims, saying, “The captain gives inputs to selectors”, who have the final say in matters of selection. However, the playing eleven is picked by the captain, vice-captain and coach.

A young cricketer playing for Delhi told the Economic Times, on the condition of anonymity, that he was worried about joining a rival sports management firm because of the impact it may have on his selection for India.

Shailendra Singh, of entertainment marketing firm Percept, which has managed cricketers Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh in the past, feels, in principle, there’s no problem in the arrangement Dhoni has with Rhiti, but adds it needs to be seen in the current context. “There’s so much muck in the corridors,” said Singh, joint MD of Percept.