18 March 2019: Private lender IDBI Bank has approached the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) against Neville Tuli-promoted arthouse Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art Pvt Ltd for the default of about Rs 125 crore. The Reserve Bank of India has classified the previously state-owned bank as a private lender from January 21, 2019.
Mumbai-based Osian’s Connoisseurs is considered to be the country’s pioneering arts institution and auction house, which houses an archive, library and a collection of antiquities, miniatures, sculptures and other cultural artefacts.
Two persons familiar with the development said the lender has approached the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The company was declared a Non-Performing Asset (NPA) on March 2010, however, later, certain loans were restructured.
“The bank has decided to propose Girish Sriram Juneja as interim resolution professional (IRP) at the National Company Law Tribunal,” said one of the people quoted above. “The properties of the company also include ‘Minerva Theatre,’ an iconic single screen theatre of yesteryears situated in tony South Mumbai locality and its office located in Nariman Point area as securities.” As per the audited accounts of Osian’s Connoisseurs, as on March 2018 the current assets of the Neville Tuli-owned company stood at Rs 106 crore including artworks.
The company had tried for One Time Settlement (OTS) with the lender from 2014 to 2016 but that did not materialise.
Nishith Dhruva, a managing partner of law firm MDP & Partners, who is representing IDBI Bank in the dispute, confirmed the filing of insolvency petition but refused to divulge any details citing the matter was sub judice.
“Recently, the bank also appointed valuers to help the resolution and we readily agreed to the process. Now this NCLT decision has been taken by the bank, which is their privilege,” said the company in its response.
“They will need to consult with other parties and all related legal counsel as they only have a pari-passu charge on the assets. Whatever process is taken forward, we will support a just resolution,” it added.