NEW DELHI: In 2010 when Rhiti Sports Management announced the eye-popping deal of Rs 210 crore minimum payment to Mahendra Singh Dhoni over the next three years it shattered most records of celebrity endorsements in India and placed the Indian cricket icon among the world’s richest Sports personalities.
In an interview to a business magazine earlier this year, Rhiti’s promoter Arun Pandey said the minimum guarantee of Rs 210 crore had already been paid to the cricketer. However, financial statements of Rhiti group’s companies raise questions on how the cricket captain was paid, if he was paid that much at all.
If the company has paid Rs 210 crore to Dhoni from its funds, it would mean Rhiti is not operating on a commission basis, at least with Dhoni. In that case, it could well be that Rhiti has paid him in advance and is collecting endorsement fees and other royalties from deals signed with brands that sign on Dhoni.
Rhiti’s balance sheet, however, throws up questions about that. In 2010-11, when the deal was signed, Rhiti had a total income of only Rs 39.72 crore. The year before that, 2009-10, its income was just Rs 6.77 crore. By 2011-12 the company had registered a total income of Rs 63.54 crore. Thus, in the three years since the deal was signed Rhiti’s total income (not profits) is just about Rs 110 crore.
So if Dhoni had been paid Rs 210 crore, it was clearly not from Rhiti’s funds, as neither Rhiti Sports Management nor any of its group companies has shown money transactions of such a magnitude. Nor do they have group revenue anywhere near Rs 210 crore.
However, if the company was operating on a regular commission basis, then the hype surrounding the Rs 210 crore minimum guarantee deal would appear to have been a publicity gimmick to pump up Dhoni’s commercial worth – something that might have served both Rhiti and Dhoni well.
The details of the contract between Dhoni and Rhiti Sports have always been hazy. However, Pandey has said that Dhoni was earning over Rs 100 crore a year, and a Forbes estimate said in 2012 Dhoni’s total earning was $26.5 million (Rs 145.5 crore).
Reports quoting Pandey and those close to him have hinted that the deal with Rhiti Sports was that it would get around 10% commission on all deals swung for Dhoni. This appears to be contrary to the announced claim of an agreement with a minimum guaranteed payment.
A detailed questionnaire sent by TOI to the Rhiti management on this issue on Tuesday remained unanswered until Wednesday evening. A spokesperson for the company didn’t respond to repeated phone calls and messages from TOI.
This newspaper had asked: “Given the fact that the total revenues of Rhiti Sports since its incorporation in 2007 are a little over Rs 100 crore, from where did Rhiti Sports pay Dhoni Rs 210 crore? Has the company been unable to meet the target envisaged when the deal was signed? If so, has the deal been reworked or being reworked?”