Apprehend allotment one of Badri Seshadri’s annual actuality
The Cricinfo aggregation alfresco the Hartham Abode office, about 2001. Simon King advanced and centre
The aboriginal £100,000Peter Griffiths brought a actual able affiliation from the scoring and statistics ancillary of things. He was at that time apparently the Secretary of Candid Scorers and Statisticians. Alex Balfour was accomplishing all kinds of jobs, one of which was freelance journalism. He did a adventure on Cricinfo. That drew him into Cricinfo and he started alive as a volunteer. He was consistently accessible to address archetype for any certificate we had to address or presentation we had to make. In accession to that, he was able-bodied affiliated in London with the cyberbanking side, because he was accomplishing a lot of ysis assignment during the dotcom period.
One such aggregation that was brought in by Alex was alleged Pangolin. It afterwards renamed itself as sportal.com and afresh burst eventually. They were a aggregation run by a agglomeration of sports admiral who were in some television aggregation or the other, into rights negotiations and broadcasting. It was primarily apprenticed by soccer. They had the abstraction of putting calm a pan-European mega sports network. They said they would accord us £100,000.
It was our aboriginal able allotment in acknowledgment for about nothing. Amazing deal. They said they would accord us the money in acknowledgment for us to address a business plan. If they admired the business plan they would advance in us at the agreed valuation. If they didn’t like it or we didn’t like the offer, we were to acknowledgment the money, and if we didn’t accept the money to acknowledgment – because acutely the moment you booty £100,000, you alpha spending it – they would booty announcement on our site, aback they were architecture a sports adjustment and they bare announcement and they knew we had a acceptable admirers base.
We said, fine. There was annihilation to lose. Banknote for advertising, and that as a aftermost resort. So we took the money and started application it. Simon set up an appointment in a abode alleged Hartham, and I went there absolutely often. Alex would appear in for a day or two a anniversary for babyish money, to do some work, and me action there, blockage there for a ages and advancing aback – that array of thing.
But now we could apply added bodies in India. With that affectionate of money, if we alike allocated a brace of thousand pounds we could appoint bodies in India to do scorecards and added things. So that’s how the Indian appointment was set up. Alike afore that, in ’98, aback I started travelling to UK, we tracked Murari Venkatraman, who had been one of the admins afore me. We got Murari in, and absolutely a few added employees. In hindsight we apparently should not accept assassin best of those people, but we concluded up hiring about 60-70 people, lots of them accounting scorecards, which was the starting point, admitting in UK we had aloof one employee.
David Richards was still actual active. He brought in a guy alleged Michael Watt, a New Zealander, who congenital CSI, which like TWI was into sports broadcasting. Both the New Zealand Candid Lath and Australian Candid Lath accurate him and gave him television assembly affairs as able-bodied as television rights business contracts.
“I will accord you £3 million”David Richards got Simon to accommodated Michael Watt. Watt did not ask any questions. Afterwards a brace of affairs he said: You appetite money? I’ll accord you money. I will accord you £3 actor and you booty it and body Cricinfo. This was over a handshake. Simon, myself, Balfour and Griffiths went, met him in his room, befuddled his hand, and he told his accountant to alteration three tranches of one actor pounds.
Afterwards they said they would accept 25% pale in the aggregation in acknowledgment for the £3 million. It was an angel accord of a affectionate which was absolutely exceptional of. So the money came aboriginal and the acceding came later, of beneath than bisected a page, which covered aloof three points: 25% equity, first-exit advantage for them, and if addition comes to advance they had the appropriate to advertise their disinterestedness aboriginal or not sell. They didn’t alike ask for a lath bench or anything.
So this aboriginal allotment came in August ’99. Simon and I approved autograph business affairs and we aloof couldn’t do it because we didn’t apperceive what a business plan was. So we a got a certificate from Coopers & Lybrand which talked about how to address a business plan. We would go and sit in some pub and try to write. At times Alex would accompany us but mostly it would be me and Simon. We were consistently talking about the aforementioned thing: we will awning all all-embracing matches, we will accept audio and video, the aforementioned things.
Michael Watt’s bodies appropriate that we get Pangolin out of the way. He knew everyone, so he artlessly alleged them and said, let these kids out, they will pay you off at no absorption rate. So we paid the £100,000 out of the aboriginal £1 actor that we got and cut the accord off and we had Watt captivation 25% of the company.
About the time aback the money came in, a cyclone of action started accident with us in acceding of investments and we were artlessly not accessible for it. We were clueless, really. Alex Balfour was apparently the one who was the best clued-in because he was a business journalist. He knew about shares and valuations and how money was invested in companies, and we would accommodated in his abode and we would allocution about what to do.
Declan Murphy, who was Watt’s advance manager, started attractive about for investments. Apparently he was attractive to about-face this £3 actor into x million. So he started action to the market, saying, actuality is this aggregation alleged Cricinfo and you can advance in it. And he started bringing in all sorts of deals.
It was aloof too abundant for us. There was a abrupt alike of money – £100,000 comes from boilerplate and afresh you accept £3 actor accident and you accept not done anything.
All forth there was some candid advantage action on – the ’99 World Cup happened, which Alex managed completely. At that time he had a botheration with the ECB, who were active an official website and didn’t appetite to accord us admission into the stadium.
But our advantage of the ’99 World Cup was a amazing success. We could get added advertisement acquirement in US or UK than the official website. Acutely the ECB would accept been absolutely pissed off about that. That was the aftermost World Cup that was run by a candid lath afore ICC took over the active and advocacy and administering of it.
Assurance v accumulation motiveOur user abject was action up abundantly and money was additionally advancing in, but we didn’t accept any abstraction or plan or strategy. And Simon capital complete control. Say, for example, if we capital to advertise the aggregation in ’99, addition would accept appear and bought it for any bulk of money. But Simon had the abstraction that the accomplished affair started as a autonomous venture, so we could alone accede ourselves as trustees. Simon was never in it for the money and that is area the affray started, because on one end you accept Michael Watt and his money – admitting he additionally appeared to be a actual nice guy, but his manager, Declan Murphy, was about money.
So Murphy said, let’s do a accord and get investors. Simon said, no, it’s a trust. And we had affronted affairs of bristles of us, including Declan. He was actual angry, anticipation we were a complete agglomeration of idiots sitting there with no compassionate about what the dotcom bazaar was all about. We had agreed to accord 25% shares to Watt but alone two shares had been issued at that point, and both were taken by Simon. So on cardboard 100% was with Simon. He said he was a trustee for a agglomeration of volunteers. How do you anatomy these things?
“Around the time aback the money came in, a cyclone of action started accident with us in acceding of investments and we were artlessly not accessible for it. We were clueless, really”
Simon came up with a formula. The abstraction was article that he had discussed with me, area he looked at all the bodies who had volunteered for Cricinfo, and we went through all the names and came up with 70-75 names. So 75 bodies own the aggregation afore anyone abroad came in. How do you accord them shares? So afresh a admeasurement was how abounding scorecards were typed up by which guy. Afresh there were added bodies like Vishal, who had created scoring software, and KS Rao. Application and applying all sorts of measures he created a blueprint area exceptional disinterestedness was accustomed to himself and me, because we were the aboriginal two bodies who abdicate our careers to jump into this. Afterwards this absolute blueprint was created, it was array of like 25% for Simon King, 15% for me, and afresh it starts cone-shaped bottomward all the way. And a added 25% to Watt. This was presented to a few bodies and it was agreed and accustomed generally.
Aback we started accepting money, Simon and I took a cruise to the US to accommodated with sportsline.com, which was afresh alleged CBS Sportsline and was a avant-garde amid multi-sports media companies. They were agog but aloof in any array of banknote deal. They capital to admission Cricinfo and cycle it into CBS Sportsline, to accomplish it CBS Cricinfo. The accord was that CBS would invest, but added in acceding of announcement amplitude in acknowledgment for about 30% equity.
Aback we went there it was absolutely amazing for us because they had their own internet radio base that they were active for basketball and football matches. These were things that we had consistently capital to do, and we saw that they could do it with aloof two guys sitting in a room, accouterment alive audio commentary. They had admirable server set-ups, while we were hopeless. They were the ones who absolutely told us about the accent of editorial. They had so abounding journalists. We were cerebration alone about candid scorecards and statistics, and journalism was somehow not as important to us.
So CBS Sportsline were absorbed in accepting us for b but Simon was not. Added deals were proposed and all of them consisted of bodies demography a majority pale and affairs the aggregation completely. Simon was asleep adjoin that. He believed ascendancy is important and that he had a abundant eyes for Cricinfo, so he said he could not accord a majority pale to anyone. This resulted in a accident of several deals, and Declan Murphy was absolutely angry at this point.
So we all gave up and I came aback to India, area I started accepting a lot of buzz calls about deals. Word had advance that Cricinfo was absorbed in investment. CBS beatific one of their top admiral here. They were aggravating to body a aggregation alleged sports.com, which was declared to be an exact replica of Sportsline for the UK. They were absolute competitors of Pangolin. Both were still absorbed in us.
India was aperture up at that time to internet ventures. We were approached by Coffer of America’s advance cyberbanking ysis in Hong Kong. They said they would represent us, do a business plan for us, which was wonderful, as we had been aggravating about a year to address one and had not gotten anywhere.
Prakash Parthasarathy from Coffer of America, primarily alive with me and with some inputs from Simon, put calm an advice memorandum. Afresh he broadcast it to assorted abeyant investors, and the best accord from Simon’s point of appearance came from Sify, Satyam Infoway, mainly because it gave us the best valuation, $150 million, and it didn’t ask for abundant in acceding of stake.
Sify gets on boardThe aboriginal affair was to appear to an acceding with Murphy on how abundant he capital out of the accomplished thing. He collection a adamantine bargain.
If you booty 25% of $150 million, it comes to what, $37.5 actor dollars? It was breach as 20 and 17.5. So $20 actor to be paid off to Michael Watt and a added $17.5 actor invested in Cricinfo.
I don’t bethink absolutely how the alignment was done. They aboriginal acquired the £3 million, or $5 million, account of pale for application and added invested money. Additional shares were issued to the founders at no accurate cost. So at the end of it, it was 25% to Sify, 75% to these 70 people.
Michael Watt absolved abroad with $20 million. But this is area the botheration comes – it was not dollars, it was ADRs – American Depository Receipts of Satyam Infoway, which was a listed aggregation in the US. Basically they affair ADRs, which booty a assertive time for allotment and afresh you accept to offload them into the bazaar and afresh you will get the accepted amount of the stock. If the b amount avalanche you accept a problem, but if it goes up, you accept an agitated too.
Declan Murphy and Co, they asleep adequately quickly. But at our end we didn’t do a acceptable job of it. Afterwards the ADRs were issued to us, aback Sify appear the deal, the b amount absolutely went up. Which meant that the 17.5 we got was account apparently 18.5, 19.5, 20 – it went up by 10-15%.
Peter Griffiths absitively to accumulate aggregate in ADRs, which in hindsight was a big aberration because we could artlessly accept adapted them into banknote and afresh put it in safe investments of some kind. He was liquidating alone what he capital to use anniversary month. Within two months the accomplished bazaar collapsed.
The accord happened about the end of April 2000. By May we had the ADRs in hand. June-July the b went up a little bit and started advancing down. With the b advancing bottomward you appetite to delay for it to go up, so you aloof admixture the problem. At one point you had $5 actor cash, afresh you accept $17 actor in abstract cash. It aloof went berserk.
We started allotment the women’s World Cup, County Championship – those were chunks. We were additionally hiring people, architecture offices.
Abacus amount but no revenueBasically these sponsorships were Simon’s way of giving money to cricket. They were handouts. If you are a cut-throat fellow, what breadth will you get from allotment the Women’s World Cup?
We had by afresh congenital a bake bulk of a actor dollars a month, with revenues not alike one tenth of that. I would blame, one, us, but appropriately Coffer of America. We were asking: what do we do with the money? Body value, we were told. Absorb the money, body value, because the aing accord we are action to do will be on a $250 million-plus valuation. So assets was not alike considered. We were absolutely hiring snake-oil salesmen, who came and said, I will accession the acquirement from $1 actor a ages to $2 actor a month. And we were hiring them at £75-85,000 a year.
A aals lath advertises a Cricinfo-ECB affiliation © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
I wouldn’t say we spent a lot of money on editorial, but we spent on equipment, and we were hiring producers. We were sending a lot of accessories to the Women’s World Cup to do video and axle the matches on the net. Today it aloof looks ridiculous. Aerial bodies from England to New Zealand itself is a huge amount – all aerial business class, and Simon would fly aboriginal class. So how to absorb money is actual easy.
I was basically administering operations. Simon said that my job was to go and accommodated all the candid boards at the top level. I was hiring bodies in UK and India and sending money to the Indian accessory to spend.
We had congenital a aggregation in Australia and were accoutrement candid matches at capital akin everywhere. We were abacus lots of amount but aught revenue. The alone revenue-making places were Britain and India, with Australia accidental a little bit. Afresh we did a accord with Nine MSN in Australia. It was a tripartite deal: Nine MSN, us and the Australian candid board.
Afresh this applesauce about accomplishing the official websites of the boards started happening, but boring that wore off because it was not breeding too abundant money. The boards were not authoritative abundant out of it either. They saw that aggregate was template-ish, attractive the same.
This was a time aback we were action through difficulties on every accessible front. The engineering was weak, the Mike-Jeff boxes were not sufficient. Their cerebration was to add added boxes and to body software solutions, aback what we absolutely bare was good, able-bodied accouterments solutions. You had a lot of journalists but they were from actual disparate backgrounds, and to absolutely cull them calm to do acceptable assignment wasn’t happening. All through, the one affair that could not abort was the scoring, and that was additionally the one that generated money. That went on, but you could see the abridgement of professionalism everywhere.
By the end of 2000, it was bright to us that things were not action right. Coffer of America came and said, sorry, we may not be able to get you any added deals.
In too deepThe money came in in 2000 and we were action bankrupt in 2000! We affected Pete to advertise all the ADRs. We absent money, but still it aloft a few actor dollars for us. Maybe we absent about bristles or six actor dollars, but still we had millions. Our bake bulk was huge, but added than that, mentally we were not bright area we were going. There was no business plan. It was alone an advice memorandum, adage our folio angle will admission like this, our revenues will admission like this. That’s not a business plan.
By the end of 2000, I was in UK, and I absitively that I would go to India and alpha active acquirement rather than absorption on operations. Operations were array of stabilised. We were artlessly ashore for money. The realisation that money is added important than aggregate abroad happened at that time. I was to attending afterwards the bearing of assets in India, and Alex Balfour was to do the aforementioned in UK. We did admission it but it was boilerplate a the affectionate of money we were already spending, so it was actual bright that we had to cut cost.
In 2001, we had about 25 bodies in UK, on production, html, technology, everything. In Australia there were alone four or bristles because Nine MSN was accouterment technology and added things there, so we bare actual few people. In New Zealand the aforementioned chap, Adrian Motherway, was amenable for both operations and revenue. South Africa and Zimbabwe we had Keith Lane handling. Indian operations, I was primarily administering acquirement and I had assassin Ramesh Kumar to body up a aggregation
Companies were aloof accepting burst everywhere. At atomic in India we were breeding added acquirement than what we were spending. But a lot of costs are hidden – the servers were paid for by the UK operation, which is a acute payment.
That is aback we went to Sify, adage we are aloof clueless. But their operation was additionally absolutely like this, which I didn’t apperceive at the time. They were adopting money and spending money like crazy, which their CFO told me about afterwards he abdicate Sify. Cricinfo was aloof one of the hundred or so investments or acquisitions they had. It was demography their b amount up but they additionally had burn.
They started loaning money to us. They were not absorbed in advance money in shares, but they created a loan-note arrangement. They had a pale in the aggregation and they still had cash. They were adopting banknote through all kinds of jugglery, which I came to apperceive of abundant later.
Exit KingSimon was affected out. We were extensive a date area we were active out of banknote fast, so we had to act. Afterwards all this investment, Sify was 25, Simon 15, and abundance was 10 or nine point-something, and afresh others alone bottomward all the way.
In some faculty we were somewhat arbitrary to Simon, but Simon in that book couldn’t accord any administering either. He could accept artlessly taken the accommodation of burglary as abounding bodies as possible, slimming bottomward the operations, alive till it’s banknote break-even, but he was in no position to do that because he didn’t accept the experience, and we didn’t accept the acquaintance either.
“We went to Sify, adage we are aloof clueless. But their operation was additionally absolutely like this, which I didn’t apperceive at the time. They were adopting money through all kinds of conjuration and spending money like crazy, which their CFO told me about afterwards he abdicate Sify”
I had never formed anywhere else. Simon had all his activity been a researcher and afresh into this job. Pete had run his own close but it was annihilation compared to the admeasurement we are talking about, and Alex Balfour didn’t accept this affectionate of acquaintance either, as a journalist.
Simon approved to get the Cricketer annual on board. The abstraction was that they would accession some £5 actor or article and buy out Cricinfo. A cardboard was presented by Simon and the Cricketer, adage that they would accession the money through some investors, and the Cricketer and Cricinfo would be formed into a distinct operation, and they would eventually try to about-face it about into a alive model. The accomplished abstraction in that book was to buy out Sify.
But about the day afore the plan was to be presented, the Cricketer aggregation afflicted their attitude and said, you’ve got to put the aggregation into administration, which is a pre-liquidation affectionate of model. Suspend all the creditors. The administrators will administer the aggregation and afresh we will buy. At this point Sify said, look, we are still a actual ample company. We accept admission to a lot of cash. We cannot accept any of our companies put into administration.
They said, we will booty it over in some faculty and we still appetite you guys to run it. Basically George Zachariah of Sify was array of active the accomplished thing, adage you accept to alpha acid the amount and for that you accept to get Simon out.
Simon was the one who was not absolutely accommodating to see the babyish that he had congenital – we were now chopping off its limbs and he was absolutely not advancing to acceding with it. We had an emergency lath affair in which they said, you guys go into a room, allocution and appear aback with a plan. If not, afresh we accept our plan, which we will apprehend out to you. It’s alone on that we will accommodate you money. By afresh we had appear bottomward to two months’ account of coffer balance.
Alex volunteered to footfall down. Aback Simon couldn’t appear up with an addition plan, we all absitively that we accept to do whatever Sify says, because we had no plan. So at this point George told Simon: they accept absitively to get you out of the board.
Simon was a burst man. In a faculty it was all our relationships breaking down. I larboard the aforementioned day – with George, because we based out of Chennai. That was the aftermost that I saw Simon.
I did feel answerability that I was betraying him, in a sense. And that answerability additionally fabricated me not acquaint with him at all. He didn’t communicate, I didn’t communicate. There has been no email, nothing, aback that day.
The acceding was that Pete would booty over as CEO, Alex would leave, Simon would leave. I was paid staff. I was accepting an Indian salary. So it was not a above amount per se, and I was the one who was bare because I was absolutely managing the absolute company. Pete was bare because we bare somebody in the UK to run the operation. Simon afterwards filed a case of actionable adjournment etc and there was advantage – an out-of-court settlement.
Pete showed a little toughness. He was at atomic a numbers man, adage that if we accept to sack people, I will do that. It was article that Simon couldn’t alike envision.
We started accepting money from Sify on accommodation and we started affective a lot of positions to India. We bargain the agents appreciably in UK. Afresh what happened was, with all the pressures of ambidextrous with this, Pete gave the cyberbanking ambassador a little added ascendancy in ambidextrous with the money, and he fabricated absolutely a bit of a mess. He kept a lot of old bills unpaid. He started advantageous off a lot of new bills. It accomplished a date aback the earlier creditors started autograph to us adage that you’ve got to pay us. Pete started blaming himself for the blend and he wrote a agenda saying, I appetite to resign.
Finally the Sify guys did the appropriate thing. In January 2002, they seconded a being from Sify, a buck alleged Naresh Vittal. They said, go and apple-pie up this company, it is a mess.
I can acquaint you now, what I accept learnt about business I learnt from this guy, Naresh Vittal. He came and alleged all the creditors and told them, look, the aggregation is in trouble. I’ll accord you one-third of the money, if you booty it and run. Otherwise you will not get any money. He smoothed out the acquittal structure, put a bound anchor on cost.
He fabricated it actual clear: look, I accept no abstraction about your company. I don’t apperceive best of you guys. But I will assignment with a few key people. That was appealing abundant it. He said, I will ensure you breach even.
Naresh Vittal bankrupt things up substantially, added acquirement sufficiently, brought the amount down. Seven or eight months into it we had about accomplished break-even on a account basis. That is aback Wisden announced with Alex, and Naresh Vittal and the Sify guys came in and talked to Wisden.
The accomplished accord of wisden.com was pitched to John Paul Getty Jr [the American millionaire] by this bureau alleged Quintas. They said wisden.com were not action anywhere in acceding of acquirement and Cricinfo is tottering, so the best accord is, you put some added cash, you buy both, cycle it, and thereafter it is up to you. That plan was bought by Getty. Annihilation cricket, he was accommodating to address a cheque anyway.
The way the Wisden accord was structured, it was £5 actor for the assets of Cricinfo, not liabilities. So bristles actor came and by afresh we had run up liabilities of £4 actor with Sify. None of us fabricated any money – about it awash for zero. It had so abounding liabilities. So finer what we were accomplishing was: let’s accord the aggregation abroad so that it can be managed properly.
Cricinfo is still there for meI would adulation to accommodated Simon again. I accede that I could accept dealt with it differently, but I additionally apperceive that it wasn’t me authoritative the calls to get Simon out, so that answerability is not there. None of us absolutely fabricated any money in the end. If I had fabricated any money afresh I would accept acquainted added accusable
I cannot affirmation to adulation Cricinfo added than Simon. He had confused so far abroad from his called acreage of work. He couldn’t go aback to nuclear physics, which is what he was doing, nor was he action to acquisition a job in this field. Admitting I connected to accumulate my job – it helped me apprentice things that he apparently didn’t apprentice on the job.
I went on to addition start-up, which I started in 2004. I’m on the lath of three companies. Aggregate I accept abstruse is at the amount of Cricinfo shareholders’ money. I can still alarm myself a co-founder of Cricinfo, which still has some amount
Alex [Balfour] went on to arch the new media action of the London Olympics, a job he would accept gotten partly because he was complex in Cricinfo, and he did a acceptable job of it.
Peter Griffiths was ytic old aback he larboard Cricinfo afterwards resigning. He didn’t booty up annihilation immediately. Afresh he congenital cricketarchive.co.uk, which is run by him. Alike Jeff and Mike, who we let go, they were additionally complex in cricketarchive.
It doesn’t bother me at all that I’m not allotment of Cricinfo. To be honest, if I had connected here, I ability not accept added any value. I’ll say that Cricinfo is still there for me and it still gives me amusement to accumulate afterward the game, and I’m still in blow with bodies – a lot of bodies who formed with me aback then.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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