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Zee shareholder Phantom sues Sony entities for calling it a proxy for Zee and Goenka: Report

Phantom Studios alleges that Culver Max and Bangla Entertainment falsely accused it of being influenced by Zee and Goenka.

Phantom Studios, a shareholder of Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), has initiated a defamation case against Culver Max and Bangla Entertainment, entities associated with the Sony group. The case arises from allegations made by Sony, accusing Phantom Studios of serving as a front or proxy for ZEEL and its chairman, Puneet Goenka, as reported by The Economic Times.

Ravi Ahuja, president-designate of Sony Group, along with NP Singh, the India CEO, and additional board members of Sony entities, have been listed as respondents in the petition. Phantom Studios asserts that Sony Group, in legal proceedings and news coverage, has unjustly claimed that Phantom (previously recognised as Mad Man Film Ventures) was operating under the influence of Zee Group and Puneet Goenka.

Phantom emphasised that it operates as an independent entity and has consistently acted in its self-interest to safeguard its commercial concerns. The company holds Zee shares valued at 1.3 million after making an investment of Rs. 50 crore.

Hearings in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for the case are set to recommence this week, as mentioned in the ET report. Previously, Phantom had approached the NCLT to facilitate the execution of the merger scheme between Sony and Zee, a plan that had secured approval from the NCLT in August 2023.

NCLT has declined to provide immediate interim relief to Mad Man Film Ventures in relation to the failed Zee-Sony merger. The Mumbai bench of the tribunal comprising of judicial member Lakshmi Gurung and technical member Charanjeet Singh Gulati has granted Sony a two-week period to submit its response to the pleas made by Mad Man Films Ventures.

In its plea to the Metropolitan Magistrate at Esplanade, Mumbai, Phantom Studios stated that it held a shareholder position in Zee Entertainment and had supported the merger based on the outlined framework, which included the continuation of existing management. Observing limited advancement in the merger process and receiving unsatisfactory responses from Zee management, Phantom decided to approach the NCLT in December. The NCLT application by Phantom was initially scheduled for January 3 but was subsequently rescheduled to January 30.

Sony's lawyers and its petitions have used the word proxy for Phantom before both NCLT and SIAC and sought to associate it with Goenka. In response to these allegations, Phantom argued that these statements are false and without any basis. "The word proxy signifies an authority given to a person to act for someone else, suggesting the actions [of] the complainant (Phantom) are not bona fide, or independent, when that is clearly not the case."

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