Only a few months ago, Ashneer Grover was on top, his fintech startup BharatPe became one of the many Indian startups to achieve the coveted unicorn status in 2021. He also came onboard as a ‘Shark’ in popular entrepreneurship reality show, ‘Shark Tank’, providing a big boost to his personal brand. Fast forward a few months, and his fortunes have reversed as much, as he finds himself in one controversy after another and in exile.
Now, the co-founder and managing director of BharatPe has written to the board to remove BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer from the unicorn’s board of directors.
If that is not all, Grover also accused Sameer of siding with the investors to remove him from office. Grover’s letter read, “I, now, in exercise of the power vested in me by Clause 3.7 of the SHA and Clause 91.7 of the AoA do hereby withdraw, my nomination of Suhail Sameer as a Director nominated by me to the Board of Directors of the Company.”
“In light thereof, I, Ashneer Grover, request the Board of Directors of the Company to complete the necessary processes to record the cessation of the Directorship of Suhail Sameer as a Director of the Company,” the letter read.
Incidentally, it was Grover who had hired Sameer back in 2020. The same year, he was promoted to CEO of BharatPe.
Sameer was nominated by both Grover and BharatPe’s other co-founder Shashvat Mansukhbhai Nakrani. Grover’s letter asking the board to remove Sameer as CEO also includes Nakrani’s consent. Founders have the right to nominate and be nominated as a director to the board of BharatPe, providing they have the prior consent of investors who represent the majority investor threshold.
Grover has made the headlines several times this year after he allegedly threatened a Kotak bank representative and locked horns with Kotak Mahindra CEO Uday Kotak after the latter failed to provide IPO financing. An audio clip of the same went viral, and Grover later took to Twitter to announce that the audio clip was fake. He later deleted the tweet).
Things became so heated that he had to take a “voluntary” leave of absence till the end of March. Now, Grover claims that it was not of his own volition and that he was “arm-twisted” to take the leave.
Sameer and the management are in charge of BharatPe in Grover’s absence. Grover contested Sameer’s claim that it was Grover himself who suggested the idea to take a leave, saying that Sameer was a puppet of the investors.
If that is not enough, a preliminary investigation by Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) commissioned by BharatPe’s board has discovered fraudulent transactions. This includes payments to vendors that do not exist, as well as irregularities of invoices being produced to substantiate spending.