(Dr Sandeep Goyal tracks the celebrity space on an everyday basis, and has strict viewpoints on what he thinks is ethical, and what is not.)
Captain Cool, so well loved by his fans, is often described as a self-less team player.
Obviously there is a very different Dhoni who negotiates his endorsement contracts off the field. The same Dhoni who sued the Amrapali real estate group for INR 150 crore last year and is still in the midst of litigation in the Supreme Court over a brand ambassadorship gone awry, happily announced yesterday that he has signed up with the Samudhura group which sells real estate in the South of India, especially in Bangalore and Hyderabad! MS Dhoni is quoted on the company website saying, “I seek for brands that I relate to and can be impactful for, and this partnership makes me fulfil that very purpose. In this endeavour, I am proud to be associated with Sumadhura Group, who are known for their uncompromising values and trust earned over 20 years of excellence in business.“
Whoopee! What fun! Now what happens if Samudhura like Amrapali too don’t deliver on their promises to home-buyers, whatever be the reason? Will Dhoni hold himself accountable for leading potential customers on through his presence in the realty company’s ads if ever something were to go wrong?!
Dhoni was the brand ambassador of Amrapali for 6-7 years starting 2011. He resigned as brand ambassador of the realty firm in April 2016, days after being trolled on social media by residents of an Amrapali housing project who were angry over the unfinished work. The residents had tagged Dhoni in their tweets, asking him to either dissociate himself from the builder or make sure that they complete the pending work. Amrapali had also announced gifting each member of the 2011 World Cup winning cricket team with exquisitely designed independent villas at its Amrapali Dream Valley Project at Noida Extension worth INR 9 crore after India’s victory in the World Cup in 2011. While Dhoni was presented with a villa worth INR 1 crore, the other team members were gifted villas worth INR 55 lakh each covering an area of 1690 sq ft. The sad story is that those villas were never built or gifted to the cricketers.
I had written a Blog on this very subject of Dhoni and Amrapali last year for Campaign India.
In my earlier Blog, I had raised some pertinent issues. The same questions again come up as a result of Dhoni’s signing up with Samudhura:
1. As brand ambassador, was Dhoni directly or indirectly responsible for Amprapali’s commitments to its home buyers? Now that he has signed up with Samudhura, is there a ‘limited public liability’ to his support to this realty company?
2. Can Dhoni just claim to be ‘paid help’ and escape any role or responsibility in the cheating of thousands of middle class home buyers at Amrapali? What if something goes wrong at Samudhura too?
3. Prima facie, it would not be unfair to believe that the presence of Captain Dhoni in Amrapali ads helped lure a lot of the buyers. His endorsement of the builder was a ‘confidence building measure’ in the purchase of the house from Amrapali. When the builder defrauded, how much was Dhoni’s culpability? Dhoni’s accountability? Dhoni’s answerability? The same applies to the Sumadhura situation. Sure, everything is good for now. But who knows about the future? What happens then?
4. It is surprising that civil society fought shy of implicating Dhoni in the Amrapali case. There was some social media turbulence in 2016 versus Dhoni but he was not seriously a respondent or defendant in any of the civil and criminal cases filed against the promoters. It is perhaps the halo of the man that cocooned him from litigation and potential prosecution. The moot question is whether having got off in the Amrapali case without any personal cases against him has emboldened Dhoni to cash in on the Samudhura endorsement moolah?
For those who came late to the party, India’s Captain Cool, M.S. Dhoni, the shrewdest skipper India has ever had in cricket, moved the Supreme Court a couple of years ago against builder group Amrapali claiming arrears of Rs. 38.95 crore against endorsement fee payable to him for the period 2009 to 2016; Rs. 22.53 crore as principal amount owed, and Rs. 16.42 crore as simple interest calculated at 18% per annum. In a move as calculated, and as astute as when he is behind the stumps, Dhoni had actually tried through the petition to the highest court in the land, to deflect all the negativity in the Amrapali matter away from himself, positioning himself as an aggrieved party alongside the 46,000 home buyers who have been crying their hearts out for the past 10 years.
#AmrapaliMisuseDhoni was the anguished cry of thousands of home buyers in 2016 when the entire Amprapali fraud went public. Dhoni quit as Amprapali’s brand ambassador after the residents claimed that civil and electrical work at the first phase of Amrapali’s project Sapphire at Noida Sector 45 was not completed though 800 families had already moved in. Later Dhoni said that he would take up the matter with the builder and it must deliver on its promises. "If you see the economy, it is quite tough for the builder as of now. But at the same time, whatever is promised, I think it needs to be met," Dhoni had then said. What role Dhoni played subsequently in alleviating the problems of the home buyers he had enticed as brand ambassador to buy Amrapali flats is not known. And thousands of home buyers, having invested savings of a lifetime in Amrapali, continue to remain without a roof over their heads.
Captain Dhoni, through his petition to the Supreme Court, had wisely (and strategically) chosen to join the list of those distressed and oppressed by Amrapali, lest he too be kayoed as an accomplice in the Amrapali scam. For the record, in the Amrapali case, Dhoni’s involvement with the disgraced builder was not merely that of a brand ambassador, much as he may have claimed in media as part of his innocence act. Dhoni’s wife Sakshi was a director at Amrapali Mahi Developers Private Limited and this firm was involved in running a hospital and a charity in Dhoni's home state Jharkhand. Sakshi remained a director of this entity well after Dhoni quit as Amrapali’s brand ambassador.
The signing of another real estate client by MS Dhoni while the fire still burns at Amrapali is highly unethical. He features in the ad below as someone already living in a Samudhura home (Homes You Don’t Want to Leave) and in the website quote above he swears by his new partners. Methinks there should be a question by all Amrapali sufferers to Dhoni on how genuine his endorsements and his commitments really are!
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