Amazon wanted $40m to drop its ‘right of first refusal’: Future

Amazon wanted $40m to drop its 'right of first refusal': Future

(This story originally appeared in on Feb 15, 2021)

NEW DELHI: US e-tail giant Amazon had asked for $40 million to forego its “right of first refusal” to buy Future Group’s assets in Future Retail, the Indian retailer has alleged in documents submitted with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

In its submission to the emergency arbitrator, the homegrown retailer claimed that Abhijeet Mazumdar, head of corporate development and private investments at Amazon, had made a verbal offer to Future Group promoter Kishore Biyani on behalf of the e-tailer, asking for “$40 million as compensation in exchange for the Future Group and Reliance proceeding with the disputed transaction”.

The Future Group further claimed that according to messages exchanged between Biyani and Amit Agarwal, global senior VP and country head at Amazon India, the e-tailer was kept in the know about the progress of the deal between

(RIL) and the Future Group.

SIAC, however, had noted in its interim award against the proposed RIL-Future deal, which it granted to Amazon, that — despite the e-tailer actively seeking to invest more into the debt-laden Future Group along with other investors — it was not apprised of the finer details of the RIL-Future arrangement.

While TOI has reviewed copies of the documents, questionnaires emailed to Amazon and the Future Group did not elicit any replies till the time of going to the press.

Both Amazon and the Future Group are currently locked in a bitter legal battle over the latter’s Rs 24,713-crore proposed deal with RIL announced in August. Future Group, which operates India’s largest grocery chain Big Bazaar, along with other retail chains, had announced the sale of its retail, logistics and warehousing assets to Reliance Retail, the retail arm of the Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate.

Amazon, which in 2019 had bought a 49% stake in Future Coupons, an unlisted company of the Future Group with a right to buy into flagship Future Retail after a period of three-to-five years, went to SIAC in October, pleading the deal be cancelled as it had the right of first refusal.

The row saw both companies battling it out in the Delhi high court about the viability of the emergency arbitrator’s award in India. After a division bench of the Delhi high court lifted a “status quo” order on the deal, revoking a previous court decision that had effectively blocked it, Amazon last week moved the Supreme Court, challenging it.

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