Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Just who are the Venkys?

Q. The Venkys... we've heard a lot about them this week... who are they, again?

A. The VH Group is a poultry conglomerate owned by the Rao family and based in Pune, 70 miles south-east of Mumbai. The conglomerate is headed by Anuradha Desai; she is also the chair of Venky's London Ltd, the subsidiary which owns Blackburn Rovers. She and her two brothers, Venkatesh and Balaji Rao, co-own the VH Group, which consists of 28 companies with a collective turnover in 2010 not far off £1bn and with profits of £100m. With no external partners and no debt, the company is reckoned to be worth around £1.5bn; the family are believed to be worth more than £2bn.



Q. How did they acquire their wealth?



A. The trio's father, Dr B V Rao, a vet and philanthropist, began his business in 1971. He turned one hatchery into an empire that now breeds chickens, sells vaccines, machinery, processed food, dietary supplements and fast food. The VH Group is expanding across Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East; it now employs 250,000 people directly and the same again in related business.



Q. When did they take over at Blackburn?



A. The Venkys paid £23m to the Jack Walker Trust in November 2010 to take control of the club. They are believed to have paid off £10m of club debt when they took over; in the year to 30 June 2011, a further £5m interest-free loan was paid in. Barclays were after a cash injection of £10m to cover their overdraft earlier this season, which it is assumed the new owners also paid. To put all this in perspective, in the same year they bought Rovers they paid £130m for a new vaccine plant in Switzerland.



Q. Why did an Indian family buy a football club in Lancashire?



A. Balaji, who is 40, has 51 vehicles, including a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley and a £100,000 Hummer. He is the football fan in the family and in 2009 he started to look at the possibility of buying a club. He initially looked at buying one in Pune, but then thought they would be a bit small; Kentaro, the sports agency, suggested they look to buy one in England instead. The family decided a Premier League club would be the best to buy. They were offered a stake in a Championship club but wanted complete control and in August 2010 Blackburn was proposed. They believe football will take off massively in India in the next five years, to rival cricket.



Q. What have been their most notable actions at Ewood Park?



A. Sacking the manager Sam Allardyce (who had led the club to a 10th-place finish in the 2009-2010 season) when the team were in 13th place in the Premier League in December 2010. Appointing a member of his back-room staff, Steve Kean, as manager. Selling Phil Jones for £16.5m to Manchester United in June 2011 and Chris Samba for £12.5m to the Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in February this year. Overseeing the relegation of Rovers to the Championship on 7 May 2012 following a 1-0 home defeat by Wigan Athletic.

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