Two Zee Investors Seek Punit Goenka Removal Even As Directors Manish Chokhani, Ashok Kurien Step Down

Two directors of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. have stepped down and now the fate of managing director and chief executive Punit Goenka hangs fire.

On Sept. 13, Zee informed stock exchanges that Ashok Kurien and Manish Chokhani, both non-executive non-independent directors of Zee, resigned with immediate effect.

Chokhani resigned “due to changed life circumstances and perspective post Covid,” whereas Kurien has cited “pre-occupation” as the reason for his resignation.

In a separate filing the company also disclosed that in a letter dated Sept. 11, two institutional investors, Invesco Developing Markets Fund and OFI Global China Fund LLC, had requisitioned an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders to vote on

  • removal of Punit Goenka as director

  • removal of Manish Chokhani as director

  • removal of Ashok Kurien as director

  • appointment of six new independent directors

The two institutions own 17.88% of Zee Entertainment. 96% of the company is owned by public shareholders of which foreign portfolio investors are the largest with 57.46%. Indian mutual funds own 8.1%, insurance companies hold 10% – of which Life Insurance Corporation has the largest chunk of 4.89%.

Only 3.99% is owned by promoter Subhash Chandra and his family, including son Goenka.

Both filings were published on the Bombay Stock Exchange website well after 9 pm on Sept. 13. The letter from the two institutional investors is dated Sept. 11 which Zee said it received it on Sept. 12.

This raises two questions;

Did Kurien and Chokhani step down for the reasons espoused by Zee’s filing or because of investor pressure?

Why did it take so long for critical disclosures to be made public?

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