Corporate chatter: Covid cloud over Biyani's deal with Reliance Retail; money woes for this Mittal, and Kolkata heiress throws a tantrum

Corporate India saw some intrigue and action even as the novel coronavirus peaks.

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While some members of Kishore Biyani’s (L) finance team who were working on ongoing merger talks with Reliance Retail tested positive recently, Pramod Mittal (R) was declared bankrupt last week. In pic: Mukesh Ambani (C)
Suits & Sayings | ET’s weekly roundup of the wackiest whispers and murmurs in corporate corridors & policy parlours:

Life’s a Beach
If Alibaug is the Hamptons for the swish set of Mumbai, then it’s Goa for the Lutyens’ lot. A little bird tells us that as soon as there was a relaxation in travel, many fled the summer heat of the Capital in private jets to beach houses in Goa. On that list of jetsetters are a former BPO titan who is aspiring to become a bank owner and a senior attorney, also a one-third founding partner in one of the top-tier firms.

Sent Packing

For many, the dollar deluge into Jio gave hope that if needed, even under the Covid lockdown, a deal could be done. Alas, then came a sobering reality check. Some members of Kishore Biyani’s finance team who were working from the group’s Jogeshwari office in Mumbai on ongoing merger talks with Reliance Retail tested positive recently. The entire setup had to be sanitised and the rest of the team had to work from home. End result — a few lost days in between. Shopping for this group will take a bit more time, it seems.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
After the Hindujas, another Indian family saga has rocked London high society. Last week, Pramod Mittal was declared bankrupt, failing to pay millions in dues following a long-drawn investigation into his alleged links with organised crime in Bosnia, where he had business dealings. But unlike last year, when elder brother Lakshmi cut him a $200-million cheque to clear dues in India, this time, we hear, he has refused to intervene. The man who once spent £50 million on his daughter’s big fat wedding has retreated to his mansion just off Park Lane, we learn. We wonder though if his £17-million pad with chefs, chauffeurs and valet will also come under the hammer, now that his brother’s family – who live on the other side of Hyde Park – has stepped away, especially since Pramod’s arrest in 2019 and subsequent million pound bail bond release.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma loves to wear his nationalism on his sleeve.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma loves to wear his nationalism on his sleeve.

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Cut the Cord
Vijay Shekhar Sharma loves to wear his nationalism on his sleeve, as evidenced by his Twitter feed or public statements. Of late, while downplaying the Alibaba angle, he’s also been waving the National Flag high to prove his company is desi and aatmanirbhar, as anti-China rhetoric gathers steam. But until a month back, the internal communication tool that Paytm used was DingTalk, an enterprise platform created by Jack Ma’s men.

Chit Chat
It was lighthearted banter at the annual meeting of telecom industry lobby group, COAI. Trai chairman RS Sharma, while congratulating COAI, rued the Covid-induced circumstances that necessitated a virtual meeting. “Congratulations COAI on your annual meeting. It would have been better with dinner and cocktails after this.” New COAI chairman, Airtel COO Ajay Puri, responded, in equal measure (pun intended), “You will have to get digitally high now sir.” And seeking to put the acrimony of recent years between COAI and Trai behind, Sharma said, “I don’t know if we, as government, have contributed or sort of curtailed your journey, whichever way you want to take it. But we have tried our best keeping in mind the best interests of the industry and consumers.” All’s well that ends well, presumably.

Towering Faux Pas
The Indian High Commissioner in Canada recently met a bunch of high-profile investors to hardsell the homeland. But his FDI sales pitch got a bit deflated when one of the top bosses from a pension fund informed him that its multi-billion co-investment was still awaiting approvals almost a year since announcement. At $5 billion, this was to be the largest dollar inflow into a single infrastructure project, leading to an $8-billion debt reduction for Reliance Industries, which, in turn, would have benefited several state-owned banks, including the largest of them—SBI. The visibly embarrassed diplomat promised to revert immediately with a definitive answer.
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​Sleepy Kolkata recently woke up to yet another of this heiress' ​turns.​
Sleepy Kolkata recently woke up to yet another of this heiress' turns.

Agony Aunt
This heiress of this venerable family is known for her rather brusque ways. Sleepy Kolkata recently woke up to yet another of her turns recently. But this time, she appeared to be on the backfoot when a leading Bengali singer criticised her for being high-handed. She had called his wife after he performed at a virtual concert organised by a leading cultural institution of Kolkata, of which this lady is chief patron. Unfortunately, the artiste couple were both busy when the calls came, we learn. She later told the artiste’s wife that she would blacklist her husband for his apparent insolence, jeopardising his music career. Singer-songwriter Rupankar declared in response, “We cannot satisfy your ego.”
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Home Ahoy
Stores shut and no sign of reopening. So we hear some of Ikea’s senior leadership, especially from Mumbai, have joined other members of their country’s business council to take the first repatriation flight that they could. Why not? If one gets to fly back home to the European summer, would you want to stay on in the concrete jungles of Bandra?

The Tree’s Talent Hunt
This leading VC fund, which has been without a CMO after the previous one left to start a digital strategy and communications firm along with a few other industry biggies, is finally getting a high-profile replacement, we hear. Good for it, considering the expanse of the portfolio. It also helps to have tech poster boys who are now part of the senior team to chip in and cherrypick the best of talent.

Hinduja Vs Hinduja; Ambani Brothers In Arms, And Other Family Feuds Of India Inc
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Conventional wisdom dictates that family, almost always, comes first. But India Inc has shown that conventional wisdom doesn't always hold true. Over the years, a number of prominent business families have faced separation woes. And many have had to take some hard calls.

The Ambani vs Ambani saga that captured the country's imagination in 2004, and gave birth to various kinds of theories, saw rapprochement (of sorts) last year when elder brother Mukesh bailed out younger sibling Anil by paying Rs 453 crore dues in the Ericsson case, and thereby preventing the latter from being jailed.


And while the Ambanis have done course-correction, family ties seem to be shaking at the Hinduja household. The brothers, who run the $11.2 billion conglomerate, are not seeing eye to eye over the Switzerland-based Hinduja Bank. The disagreements have left the family's patriarch SP Hinduja and his daughters on one side, and the other three brothers - Ashok, Gopichand and Prakash on the other.



In Pic: Hinduja Brothers (L), Mukesh and Anil Ambani (R).

Conventional wisdom dictates that family, almost always, comes first. But India Inc has shown that conventional wisdom doesn't always hold true. Over the years, a number of prominent business familie..
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The once closely-knit Hinduja brothers have become the latest business family to find themselves in the middle of a tussle over the future of their $11.2 billion fortune. Fissures have emerged among the four brothers, one of the world's richest, over a letter signed by them in 2014. According to the document, the assets held by one brother belong to all, and that each man will appoint the others as their executors.

However, the group's patriarch 84-year-old Srichand Hinduja and his daughter, Vinoo, want the letter declared worthless.

The dispute came to a light in a ruling delivered by a London judge, who said that the three other brothers, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok, tried to use the letter to take control of Hinduja Bank - an asset that was in Srichand’s sole name.

The court also allowed Vinoo, SP’s younger daughter, to act as his ‘litigation friend’ to safeguard his interests, since he is said to be suffering from a form of dementia.

The ongoing litigation in the London court began in November last year. Vinoo is seeking to have the July 2014 agreement declared null and void.

The once closely-knit Hinduja brothers have become the latest business family to find themselves in the middle of a tussle over the future of their $11.2 billion fortune. Fissures have emerged among ..
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The 122-year-old $5-billion Godrej group seems to be the latest India Inc family to have been hit by an internal feud after differences cropped up among family members over development of land holdings owned by Godrej & Boyce.

Brothers Adi and Nadir Godrej control the group’s three listed companies — Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL), Godrej Properties and Godrej Agrovet. Godrej & Boyce, the holding company of the group with business divisions including aerospace, consumer, office and industrial products, furniture and appliances, is owned by all family members with Jamshyd Godrej as its chairman.

The dispute reportedly arose after the family members were split over the development of a 1,000-acre land parcel they own in Mumbai. According to reports, the crux of the issue is the concentration of the family’s land holding in Godrej & Boyce and its commercial exploitation by the group’s listed arm Godrej Properties.

While Adi and Nadir are in favour of development of the land, the Jamshyd Godrej side is believed to be against excessive development.

JM Financial chairman Nimesh Kampani and lawyer Zia Mody are advising Jamshyd Godrej, while Kotak Mahindra Bank CEO Uday Kotak and Cyril Shroff of legal firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas are assisting Adi and Nadir Godrej untangle the situation.

The family business board is led by group chairman Adi Godrej and includes brother Nadir, cousin Jamshyd and brother-in-law Vijay Crishna. The fourth generation of the family, which includes the children of Adi, Jamshyd, Nadir and Crishna who are past 18 years, attend meetings as invitees.


In Pic: (L-R) Adi, Nadir and Jamshyd Godrej inaugurate the 'Godrej Interio' store, a joint venture between Godrej & Boyce's Jamshyd Godrej and designer Krsna Mehta, at Godrej Bhawan in Mumbai on February 24, 2010.

The 122-year-old $5-billion Godrej group seems to be the latest India Inc family to have been hit by an internal feud after differences cropped up among family members over development of land holdin..
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The Ambani war was no silent affair. From defamation suits, letters to the PM to dragging each other to court, the once-close brothers did it all.

India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and his brother Anil Ambani's bitter feud began soon after the death of their father Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries, in 2002.

Ambani Sr. hadn't left a will, so his elder son Mukesh became Chairman and MD of Reliance Industries Ltd while Anil was Vice-Chairman.

The feud for control led to the split of the Reliance Group. However, in 2005, their mother, Anandiben, brokered a de-merger, giving Mukesh control of oil and gas, petrochemicals, refining and manufacturing, while Anil got electricity, telecoms and financial services.

Even though some shareholders opposed the decision, the Bombay High Court had approved the de-merger.

But that didn't settle things. Rather the oil wars continued between the brothers, with Anil even accusing involvement of the Government in supporting Mukesh.

Anil's Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. had even placed newspaper ads alleging that the Indian government had sided with Mukesh's Reliance Industries.

The Ambani war was no silent affair. From defamation suits, letters to the PM to dragging each other to court, the once-close brothers did it all. India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and his broth..
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Things only went from bad to worse for the brother. In 2008, Anil filed a $2.12 billion defamation suit against Mukesh for remarks he made during an interview with The New York Times.


What started off as a family feud, was termed a matter of 'national interest' by India's then-finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who requested the brothers to resolve the dispute privately.

After going to the Supreme Court in 2009 over the gas dispute (the court ruled in Mukesh's favour), Kokilaben once again intervened in May 2010 to broker a peace agreement. Officials of both their companies received notes that said the Ambani brothers would draft a non-compete agreement.

Soon after, Anil withdrew his defamation suit.

Now a few years later, the brothers are often seen together at family functions, and other events.

Things only went from bad to worse for the brother. In 2008, Anil filed a $2.12 billion defamation suit against Mukesh for remarks he made during an interview with The New York Times. What started..
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Meanwhile, Monday also saw another family feud being resolved. Niranjan Hiranandani and his London-based daughter, Priya Vandrevala, finally ended their battle on the Bombay High Court's directives. The solution came when both sides urged the HC to pass an order without specifying the reasons for its decision. Justice SC Gupte asked Hiranandani and his son Darshan to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 149 crore towards the anticipated tax liability related to Priya's payout. The two had deposited Rs 360 crore with the high court in November 2017 itself, after a judge made it a condition for hearing the matter.


Hiranandani Sr and his son had signed a Business Associate Agreement with Priya in May 2006 to jointly develop properties in the country. About three years later, Priya accused the two of breaching the deal in at least 19 projects, and approached the London Court of International Arbitration. In 2013, this forum ruled that the BAA had been violated in five projects and in 2016, it asked the two men to compensate Priya.

Meanwhile, Monday also saw another family feud being resolved. Niranjan Hiranandani and his London-based daughter, Priya Vandrevala, finally ended their battle on the Bombay High Court's directives. ..
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On Tuesday, former Ranbaxy promoter and founder of Fortis Healthcare, Shivinder Mohan Singh, slapped a suit against elder brother Malvinder in the National Company Law Tribunal. He cited oppression and mismanagement at the RHC Holding, Religare, and Fortis, marking a public rupture between the siblings after the business legacy they inherited slipped out of their hands amid accusations of wrongdoing. Shivinder said the action had been "long overdue" but he had hoped that "better sense" would prevail.

Shivinder also said that he had wanted to spare his family the trauma of a public feud but insisted that he had played only a supporting role.

After leading Fortis Healthcare for close to two decades, Shivinder had moved out to devote himself fulltime to the Radha Soami Satsang Beas. But he said he had returned after seeing the 'ruin of a national healthcare asset', however, despite his best efforts he couldn't succeed in salvaging the situation.

On Tuesday, former Ranbaxy promoter and founder of Fortis Healthcare, Shivinder Mohan Singh, slapped a suit against elder brother Malvinder in the National Company Law Tribunal. He cited oppression a..
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In December 1998, then Raymond boss Vijaypat Singhania's eldest son Madhupati severed ties with the family, left his ancestral home in Mumbai and moved to Singapore. But before shifting base along with his wife Anuradha and four children, Ananya, Rasaalika, Tarini and Raivathari, he entered into a Family Agreement, under which he relinquished his rights, as well as those of his children, to the family property.


The following year, Gautam Hari Singhania, Vijaypat’s younger son, was made the company's MD.


While Madhupati and family continued their lives in Singapore, back in Mumbai Raymond grew—almost five-fold. In 2015, Vijaypat decided to hand over the reins and his 37.17% stake in Raymond to Gautam. It was around the same time, that Madhupati's children filed a suit against their grandfather, questioning the 1998 Family Agreement. In the Bombay HC petition they claimed a right to the Raymond brand, ancestral properties, and other assets of the group.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Madhupati, too, stated that he left the country due to irreparable differences with his father, claiming that his life was full of insults and humiliation. He went on state that he did not want to be humiliated by working under his younger brother, and thus decided to leave.

In December 1998, then Raymond boss Vijaypat Singhania's eldest son Madhupati severed ties with the family, left his ancestral home in Mumbai and moved to Singapore. But before shifting base along wi..
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But troubles didn't end there for septuagenarian, two years after passing on the baton, he was stuck in a property deal over JK House with his son Gautam. The former tycoon was moved to living in a rented house, while he fought for his rights. The messy affair, went on to drag in the two sons of Vijaypat's brother Ajaypat Singhania, Akshaypat and Anant.

As per a 2007 agreement, Gautam Singhania, father Vijaypat, Akshaypat and his mother Veena Devi were set to get an apartment each in the redeveloped JK House at a price of Rs 9,200 per sq ft.


In Pic: Akshaypat and Anant Singhania.

Also Read: Akshay and Anant Singhania hit back at Gautam: Did we ask you to spend Rs 270 cr on JK House, create helipad?

But troubles didn't end there for septuagenarian, two years after passing on the baton, he was stuck in a property deal over JK House with his son Gautam. The former tycoon was moved to living in a r..
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July 4 2004, brought with it turbulence for the Birlas. Priyamvada Birla, widow of Madhav Prasad Birla - one of the four Birla brothers who built the empire, had passed away. And her will had left not just the Birlas, but everyone, stumped. She had given her wealth and her shares in Pilani Investments to her chartered accountant, Rajendra Singh Lodha.

Lodha was also the sole executor of the will.


Till now an outsider, Lodha was now suddenly in the middle of things. The decision was opposed by the Birlas who said she couldn't have left her assets to an outsider.

In court, the Birlas citied a previous mutual will written by Priyamvada and her husband which said that all their assets would go to charity.


The legal battles have continued ever since, often dragging Arun Jaitley and Ram Jethmalani to Kolkata to represent the Birla family.

After the death of Lodha in October 2008, his son Harsh Vardhan Lodha has been taking on the Birlas in the courtroom.

July 4 2004, brought with it turbulence for the Birlas. Priyamvada Birla, widow of Madhav Prasad Birla - one of the four Birla brothers who built the empire, had passed away. And her will had left ..
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