The announcement of the sale of Tito’s made by its co-owner Ricardo D’Souza sent shockwaves across Goa. Little was disclosed about the actual nature of the deal. However, he did accuse the deep-seated corruption among Goan officials of the state and the various official bodies for serving him “the last straw on the camel’s back,” ultimately leading him to take such a decision. But lots of recent development is creating a doubt in the mind of people if the Tito’s Sold or Not-sold? Here we try to put some light on this issue.
The sale of the Iconic club was followed by the Facebook post by its co-owner Mr. Ricardo Joseph Dsouza who quoted that he has sold his entire business and that he is no more interested in doing any business in Goa due to the harassment from the authorities. “We have sold our entire business in Goa,” the post said.
This announcement was met with an outpour of sadness, love, and anger by people in Goa and worldwide, who have spent many memorable nights partying at this iconic beach club of Goa. Goans have not been able to digest the fact that their beloved homegrown brand will cease to exist. At that point, assuming the worst and the shutdown of Tito’s, they were left with many unanswered questions.
The second statement comes from the Calangute MLA Micheal Lobo who quotes in the media that Ricardo is his very close friend and that is aware of the deal that is going on since 2019 and that Ricky (Mr. Ricardo) has just taken token money from the new owners and that he will convince him to no to sell the Goa’s iconic property.
With new developments and statements by politicians, far from imparting clarity, the issue seems to only get murkier with each passing day. On close perusal, one can identify several contradictions in these statements of Ricardo, associated government officials, and MLAs involved.
Focusing on those of Ricardo alone, in his post he had mentioned the sale of his business; “We have sold our entire business in Goa,” the post said. The words of the businessman suggested that the company intends to do no more business in Goa, for good. However, in recent interviews, it was revealed that a subsidiary of the company- Tito’s Spirits vertical will continue its liquor manufacture and sale operations, domestically and globally as well.
What is more amusing is that although he mentioned the complete sale of his business, he later disclosed that his brother and he have retained 35% of the shares, selling 65% to the new owners. Moreover, as per the statement given by Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, it is only the “token amount” or the advance that has been paid yet.
Even Ricardo did not comment on the certainty of the deal, simply saying, “We have given our word and it was up to the other party to keep theirs”, nevertheless adding that advances had been accepted and executing the sale deed is just a technicality.
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Despite this, when asked by The Quint if he was likely to reconsider his decision to sell, he said that he will speak to Lobo and then take a call on this matter while at other times explicitly stating that he wishes to discontinue business altogether, and more so, that the decisions have already been made. Such are the contradictions in the several statements.
Further, the post very aggressively hinted at the closure of Tito’s, calling it “the end of an era”. But he later clarified that the new owners, rather partners, of the brand have no intentions to do so. Far from shutting down Tito’s, they intend to expand its operations and fame, across India and eventually even on international shores.
“The new owners want to take this brand forward nationally and globally by the franchise method, into Toronto, Dubai… It is such a strong brand, anybody would be silly to shut down a brand like this,” he said.
Ricardo has maintained that harassment from the government departments and corrupt officials is what led him to take this decision. “This is a culmination of working hands-on for 40 years being slammed by bureaucrats every single day,” he said. On being asked about the “harassment” he had been complaining about, he called it “pure extortion”. Ricardo has voiced his contempt for corrupt BDO, deputy collectors, NGOs, the NGPDA, and the CRZ.
However, Sarpanch of the Calangute Panchayat, Shawn Martins, said that D’Souza had not approached the Panchayat with any complaints of harassment. Michael Lobo too refuted claims about the NGPDA having sent any stays and notices to the club, at least never during his time as the chairman, before adding that he will take action against any complaints brought to his notice by the businessman.
When Lobo was asked about the Deputy Collector blamed by Ricardo for harassment, he said that it may have been a case of simple misunderstanding as a result of the official denying permission for a Holi party in view of the pandemic situation last year.
Lastly, Ricardo has spoken immensely of his desire to eradicate corruption from Goan business systems. He has claimed this to be one of his biggest reasons for shutting down the business. “My next venture is going to be targeting corruption, I have a free hand now to do that,” he said, adding that without a business that will bear the brunt of his unappetizing comments against corrupt officials, he has nothing to lose and will freely work to clean up the system for those whose voices go unheard.
On being asked if this was his cue for a career in politics, he has responded by saying that he “is a nationalist,” who wishes to work for the community. Saying that his only wish is to clean up the system and prevent bad rules from being made but he has not yet explicitly denied the prospect of politics.
Tito’s had indeed come under the scanner a few years back for pending GST dues to the tune of 40 lakh rupees, as well as for disobeying some CRZ regulations. “We are the only fully computerized business in Goa,” said Ricardo, eliminating the question of faltered business practices. More recently, there have been claims by several of Tito’s staff complaining that they were not being paid ever since the advent of the pandemic, but Mr. Rocardo has refuted the claims saying that there is no such staff who is not being paid in his company and that this is the move from the rival political party who wants to spoil his ambition to come into the political arena.
Now whether Tito’s was indeed harassed by unreasonable regulations and corrupt officials, or whether these are mere gimmicks needs to be investigated thoroughly or this has not only turned into a political debate that reflects upon the business environment of Goa but also has major implications for the youth of Goa and their future in terms of growth and employment.