It’s official! Top bosses quit STAR India

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Confirming strong speculation over the past fortnight, a press release from STAR TV in Hong Kong and Mumbai said the company�۪s senior executives in India, Peter Mukerjea, chief executive officer, STAR Group, India, and Sameer Nair, chief executive officer, STAR Entertainment, India, have resigned.

Mukerjea will leave the company at the end of January and confirmed to Business Standard that he would join his wife�۪s global executive search firm INX Global, which has a global alliance with Zurich-based IMD, as its chairman.

INX Global is also roping in journalist Vir Sanghvi, and Pradeep Poddar, managing director of Heinz India, as non executive directors. Pratik Basu, former boss of Buena Vista, is the new CEO of the company.

Nair, who is involved in the launch of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati 3’ (KBC3), which airs tomorrow, will leave at the end of March. Nair is expected to join as the head of NDTV�۪s new entertainment channel, which is a joint venture with director Karan Johar. Nair was unavailable for comment.

STAR also announced that Paul Aiello, STAR CEO designate, will be the acting chief executive officer of STAR India.

Commenting on the announcement, Aiello said: “Peter and Sameer are two extraordinary executives in the industry. The transformation of STAR India into the leading television network in the country came in no small part due to their leadership. It is with great regret that we accept their decisions to resign from the company.”

The two resignations closely follow the resignation of Michelle Guthrie CEO of STAR Asia, who was also responsible for the Indian operations.

Insiders say that the key reason for these resignations is the failure of the massive restructuring exercise a year ago when operational control of the Indian operations was handed over to Sameer Nair, leaving Mukerjea, who was at the helm earlier, to oversee only regulatory issues and new businesses.

STAR has also lost market share from around 49 per cent in 2005 to 44 per cent in 2006 due to tough competition from aggressive players like ZEE TV. The channel also had to sell programmes like KBC3 at advertisement rates that were 25 per cent to 30 per cent lower than its precedessor KBC2.

However, there is speculation that Mukerjea might get back in the TV business later with Lachlan Murdoch, the estranged son of Rupert Murdoch, and a top industrial house that might back him to start entertainment and news channels.

Mukerjea admitted meeting Lachlan Murdoch when he was in India but said, “I am not tying up with him or a major industrial house to set up a channel.”

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