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Peter Mukerjea and when stars lose their shine

By Hans Ebert

I had a short chat with Peter Mukerjea around six months ago. He messaged me about a book he had written, getting in touch and so we did. I hadn’t heard from him in over a decade. It was like hearing from a ghost from a time in advertising I would rather forget.

Peter’s alleged involvement in the murder of his step daughter was something mentioned to me by a former colleague.

If the stories told are true, it’s beyond vile. If Peter Mukerjea had been setup, it’s something one doesn’t think will ever see the light of day.

The chat was nothing that really led anywhere. I didn’t even know what we had to talk about. My guess is that after everything he’s been through and the possibilities of getting his life back to some form of normality after almost five years in jail, he was putting out some feelers. Perhaps clutching at straws.

I first knew Peter when he joined DDB Needham where I was Director Of Creative Services. He joined as an Account Director. He was married at the time with two young children.

Despite his experience in advertising and consumer goods plus being a very good strategic thinker, he was offered a pittance mainly because he was an Indian.

Those running DDB at that time didn’t have much interest in hiring people from the sub continent no matter how good they might have been. It was style over substance and expensive after shave.

Being an Asian, I went to bat for Peter. He was a good guy with a sense of humour.

Things quickly fell into place for “Mucker” when we were awarded the STARTV satellite television business.

It was an account that the Managing Director of DDB Needham at the time boasted was worth around HK$30m. He always tended to exaggerate.

By the time, we let go of the albatross and what was described internally as that “wok in the sky”, the business was worth a mere HK$4m- max.

The “wok in the sky” was then cleverly packaged and sold to News Corp and Rupert Murdoch for a considerable profit on the dream of his media empire entering the China market.

For once, the old fox was duped: the BBC News, one of STARTV’s key channels in the sale wasn’t allowed to be beamed in the Mainland.

There are too many stories about STARTV to know what was real and what was not except to say that being in the midst of it all was a surreal experience.

Other than Little Richard Li, his inner circle and those who raided the cupboards before disappearing from Hong Kong, others benefited from being part of the gravy train.

Though not receiving a present of a million bucks like some did for the successful sale to News Corp, Peter Muckerjea made his time with STAR TV count.

With India having the largest audience for STARTV, and some time in Sales for the station in Hong Kong, after the sale to News Corp, “Mucker” career path went skyward. He ended up running STAR TV India. He was described as a media tycoon. He had remarried. I lost track of him after that.

I met him in Hong Kong a couple of years later at a cocktail party for one of those back-slapping, back-biting executive conferences for those in the media.

I found a very different Peter. He was there with his old cohort from the DDB years- a one-time account executive named Anthony Pettigrew. He had followed “Mucker” to Mumbai. We must have said less than five words to each other. I was with EMI Music at the time and with a different set of priorities.

By now, Peter was one of the richest and most powerful men in India because of his position with the Murdoch-owned STAR TV and, apparently other wheeling and dealing that was going on involving extremely big bucks.

I wouldn’t describe him as arrogant, but let’s call it a cocky superficial charm. And then came his fall from grace and arrest in 2015.

Everything surrounding this arrest has the word “alleged” attached to it. It seems to be an ongoing case of twists and turns and plenty of loose ends.

I know nothing more than what i have read and what I have read repulses me. His second wife and the apparent mastermind in the murder of his step daughter Sheena Bora seems to be some piece of work.

What’s next for “Mucker”? That’s anyone’s guess. I wish him well.

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