Amid the ongoing tussle between the BharatPe board and the company’s co-founder and MD Ashneer Grover, the company’s board has decided to terminate Grover and initiate legal proceedings against him, according to sources. 

Further, the sources who spoke to BusinessLine on the condition of anonymity, the company will not be offering any settlement to Grover. It may be recalled that Grover had asked for at least ₹4,000 crore for his 9.5 per cent stake in the company. The company is likely to take legal action against the ‘image of the organisation being deliberately tarnished by Grover’ as well as against ‘ any financial malfesance.’

Financial discrepancies

On Tuesday, February 22, a source had confirmed to BusinessLine that Madhuri Jain, group head of controls and wife of Grover, was terminated from BharatPe because of the financial irregularities discovered. As per the employee contract, the termination of an employee also results in them losing the equity in the company. 

Jain was recently named in the preliminary report by international consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) as directly connected to the financial discrepancies carried out at BharatPe. However, BharatPe had earlier denied receiving any interim or final release of the independent review done by Alvarez and Marsal (A&M). 

Days after Jain’s termination, she said in a Twitter thread that she was treated like an “object” in the whole episode and called her termination a “witch hunt.” 

“Congrats Suhail Sameer (BharatPe CEO), Bhavik Koladiya (co-founder), and Shashvat Nakrani (co-founder). Now you may indulge in your ‘drunken orgies’ without having to wait for me (righteous lady) to leave office. Slow clap. And treat women like objects like I’ve been treated in the whole episode with the male chauvinistic (BharatPe) board supporting you,” Jain wrote in a tweet earlier today. She also attached a few videos which apparently show ‘drunken orgies’ at BharatPe’s offices.

Ashneer Grover, according to sources, has written a letter to the board of Resilient Innovation (BharatPe parent) alleging that Bhavik Koladiya (co-founder) tried to meet him at a location without sharing an agenda. Grover has also accused Chairman of board and former SBI chief Rajnish Kumar of being biased and prejudiced.

Later on February 23 evening, Jain also tweeted an audio clip of Bhavik Koladiya, allegedly calling Ashneer Grover from company’s chairman Rajnish Kumar’s home asking Grover to meet with him. Grover is heard asking the caller about the agenda for the meeting. When the caller does not clarify on the agenda, Grover says “you have been talking to media as well, so why do you want to talk to me now. Don’t use this (threatening) tone with me.” To which the caller responds with expletives and threatens Grover with negative consequences of not meeting him.

Initially, an upset Kumar is said to have offered his resignation to the board which was rejected. Responding to Grover’s letter, Rajnish Kumar speaking to Business Line said: “The whole idea of my joining the Board was to mentor the company. If Ashneer has doubt about my impartiality, I have no interest in staying on the Board even for a day.”

However, with the Board reposing its full faith in Kumar — who retired as Chairman of State Bank of India in October 2020 — would continue as Chairman. Referring to the Board’s backing, Kumar observed that it is a reconfirmation of the fact that he is on BharatPe’s Board only for mentoring the company.

“The Board is committed to put in place a sound governance structure as soon as possible and ensure that the company emerges stronger,” Rajnish Kumar, Chairman of BharatPe’s Board said. BNeither BharatPe nor Ashneer Grover responded to a questionnaire from BusinessLine seeking comments on possible termination and legal action on the co-founder.

Exchange of letters

Grover is also said to have written a note to the board members on February 2, asking them to remove the CEO Suhail Sameer from the board. Madhuri Jain again took to Twitter on Wednesday evening and said “Mr Rajnish Kumar - what’s the governance review process under your Chairmanship where everything is leaked? Board minutes, appointments of 3rd parties, A&M report, termination letters, arbitrations? I never heard of so many leaks in your whole tenure at SBI. What’s broken ?”

She attacked the board too saying “What is @bharatpeindia board doing to ensure confidentiality of the Governance Review? Is @BhavikKoladiya engaging in review despite not being part of company? When such breach is being done by Chairman - what’s the sanctity of the so called review? Are they doing a media trial?”

In a soup

Ashneer Grover has been in the midst of controversy for an audio recording allegedly featuring the entrepreneur bashing a Kotak Mahindra Bank relationship manager for missing out on Nykaa’s IPO. Soon after the audio clip surfaced on social media on January 5, 2022, Grover put out a tweet claiming that the clip is fake. “Folks. Chill! It’s a FAKE audio by some scamster trying to extort funds ($240K in bitcoins). I refused to buckle. I’ve got more character. And the internet has got enough scamsters,” he said. However, the tweet was later deleted by Grover. 

BharatPe announced on January 19 that Ashneer Grover will be taking a voluntary leave of absence from BharatPe till the end of March 2022 and the company’s CEO Suhail Sameer will continue to lead the team.

With inputs from Our Bureau, Mumbai