BharatPe's Ashneer Grover seeks removal of CEO, said investors “arm-twisted” him to go on leave

Ashneer Grover, co-founder and managing director of BharatPe, asked the board to remove chief executive Suhail Sameer from the board, the latest in a series of remarkable events at the Tiger Global-backed Indian fintech startup.

Grover, who is the subject of an ongoing investigation whose preliminary findings have suggested fraud, requested Sameer's removal from the board in a letter to board members on Wednesday, though he provided no explanation.

Grover hired Sameer in 2020 and promoted him to CEO in August of last year. Around the same time, Grover took over as managing director of BhararPe. Surprisingly, the letter also includes Shashvat Mansukhbhai Nakrani, another cofounder of BharatPe, consenting to Sameer's removal from the board of directors. On August 20, 2021, Nakrani and Grover jointly nominated Sameer as a director of the company.

“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 reads.

BharatPe did not respond to a request for comment right away.

Grover announced a two-month leave of absence last month after an alleged audio clip surfaced on Twitter of a man hurling abusive and life-threatening statements over a phone call to a Kotak Bank representative about not being able to get financing to buy shares in fashion e-commerce Nykaa's IPO.

A preliminary investigation conducted by Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) on behalf of BharatPe's board of directors discovered fraudulent transactions, such as payments to non-existent vendors, as well as irregularities in invoices produced to substantiate spends.

Grover and Sameer's relationship has deteriorated in recent months. According to a source close to the situation, the two stopped seeing eye to eye several months ago. "I am delighted to appoint Suhail Sameer as CEO in recognition of the phenomenal business growth he has delivered over the last year and his ability to lead from the front," Grover said at the time of Sameer's appointment.

Grover told Indian news outlet MoneyControl this week that the firm's investors "arm-twisted" him into taking a leave of absence and that Sameer was the "board's puppet."

“Anyone who will say anything unsubstantiated against me, I will get their house, car and everything they ever built. I’m very clear about that. Be clear of the repercussions if you say something without any modicum of truth,” he told the outlet.

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