Reliance Confirms Ambani Paid 1.48 Mn Euros to Hollande’s Partner

The film announcement came on the same day that French President Hollande arrived in Delhi for a three-day visit.

4 min read
Former French President Francis Hollande (L) and Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani (R).

Anil Ambani’s Reliance confirmed that the company financed 15 percent of the budget of French film, produced by Julie Gayet – France’s then President Francois Hollande’s partner – the company said in a statement, reported The Indian Express.

According to The Indian Express report, Anil Ambani paid 1.48 million Euros indirectly through one of its partners, French financing firm VisVires Capital, for the production of the film Tout La-Haut.

Reliance Entertainment had paid the aforesaid EUR 1.48 million to VisVires Capital on 5 December 2017, as customary, only about two weeks before the release of the film on 20 December 2017.
Statement by Reliance Entertainment

On 24 January 2016, Anil Ambani made an announcement that his company was partnering with the then French President’s partner, Julie Gayet and her production house, Rouge International, to produce a French film.

The announcement came on the same day that French President Francois Hollande arrived in Delhi for a three-day visit. And later that year, Ambani’s Reliance Defence became a partner in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal, reported The Indian Express.

Here’s what followed the 24 January announcement by Ambani:

  • On 26 January, 2016, India and France signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the procurement of 36 Rafale jets. The deal was called Inter-Government Agreement. However, the deal was signed on 23 September, 2016.
  • On 23 October, 2016, the joint venture between Reliance and Dassault was announced, with Reliance Defence being part of the offset programme and holding a 51 percent stake in Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (the remaining 49 percent owned by Dassault Aviation).

A year later, the film that Ambani had partnered with Gayet for, was released and the foundation stone for a production facility was laid by Reliance and Dassault.

  • On 27 October, 2017, the foundation stone for a production facility was laid by Dassault's Eric Trappier and Anil Ambani, under the joint venture in October 2017, two months before the release of Julie Gayet's film, reported Scroll.
  • On 20 December, 2017, the film that Ambani helped produce was released. But according to a report in Mediapart, the French news website, Reliance’s name wasn’t mentioned in the financing details of the film.

How Is VisVires Capital Involved?

According to Mediapart, the film was funded through VisVires Capital, an investment fund with offices in Paris and Singapore, and which had already provided services to Anil Ambani.

VisVires Capital had already invested in French films. Speaking to Mediapart, Ravi Viswanathan of VisVires Capital said that they were approached by Kev Adams, the film’s actor. Viswanathan says he pitched the idea of contacting Reliance.

Viswanathan further added that they asked Reliance if it was interested and Reliance said yes.

Speaking to the French journal, a production teammate of the film said, “One day, the Indians came and the film could be made.”

Now, the first announcement of Rafale deal came in the year 2016, when Hollande was the President and Gayet was his partner, reported The Indian Express.

However, speaking to Mediapart, former French President Francois Hollande said, “I could not even imagine that there was any link with Julie Gayet’s film.”

He further said that this was “a negotiation that was carried out with Kev Adams, who was an actor in the film.”


Who Is Ravi Viswanathan?

A French national based out of Singapore, Ravi Viswanathan focuses on acquisition and exits and board level decision making for investee companies at VisVires Capital. As a partner at VisVires Capital, Ravi Viswanathan has been an investment banker mostly with large local businesses across Asia and Eastern Europe. He was also a Joint Group CEO at Nexgen Financial Solutions/Natixis Corporate Solutions between 2000-2011.

Business association between Ravi Viswanathan and Anil Ambani goes back to 2014. According to Live Mint, Viswanathan acquired about 30 per cent stake in Nashik Vintners, the parent company of Sula Vineyards, along with Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Capital.

Speaking to Business Standard, Viswanathan said, “With Reliance, we will together own about 30 percent of Sula. The exact split is not decided yet.”

The publication then reported that while Viswanathan bought 11 per cent stake, Reliance took over 19 percent stake of the total 30 percent. The deal was done through VisVires Indian Wineries Pvt. Ltd, a company floated by VisVires Capital.

“Visvires Indian Wineries is a new vehicle we have set up for this particular business. In the near future our stake in Grover Zampa will also be transferred to the same entity.”
Ravi Viswanath to Business Standard.

Live Mint further reported that Viswanathan already held a significant minority stake in Grover Zampa Vineyards along with Reliance Capital.

In March 2018, PTI reported that Reliance sold it’s 19.05 percent stake in Sula Vineyards for Rs 256 crores. "Reliance Corporate Advisory Services Ltd has sold 30,06,833 equity shares held in an unlisted company namely Sula Vineyards Private Ltd (representing 19.05 percent of paid up equity share capital), for an aggregate consideration of Rs 256 crore," Reliance Capital said in a filing to the BSE.

(With inputs from Mediapart, Scroll, Business Standard, The Indian Express and Live Mint)

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