Ousted MD says McDonald's, Hardcastle acting in collusion

Posted online: Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : Ousted managing director of the north and east operations of McDonald's India, Vikram Bakshi, has accused Hardcastle Restaurants, which runs the operations in the west and southern part of the country, of influencing the US fast food chain "to take oppressive steps" against him.

Bakshi, a 50% stake holder in Connaught Plaza Restaurants (CPRL), which runs the north and east operations, moved the company law board (CLB) on Monday seeking a stay on his removal.

Sources said that his lawyers would plea on Thursday for an early hearing on the matter.

In his petition to the CLB, Bakshi said that “even in 2011, in a meeting, the other joint venture partner for west and south India region expressed his desire to buy out the petitioner's (Bakshi's) shares and categorically informed him that McDonald's had given him tacit approval for the same. The west and south India region joint venture partner also went to the extent of saying that McDonald's would not let the petitioners function effectively if they refuse to sell out".

The fast food chain's operations in west and south India is run by BL Jatia group-owned Hardcastle Restaurants under a development licence by McDonald's.

Bakshi said Tony Larraco, vice president, franchising, of McDonald's Corporation, in a meeting in 2012 repeated the same words as stated by the west and south region joint venture partner that he should sell off his shares in the company as McDonald's had already made up its mind to buy them out. “Upon being inquired whether McDonald's was willing to buy out his interest, he was categorically told not to be concerned about who would be buying the shares in the JV company but should only be concerned about the money,” he has stated in his petition.

"This clearly proves that McDonald's continuous acts of oppression have been towards the sole objective of forcing out the petitioners (Bakshi) from the company and having failed in their bid till now, McDonald's has now indulged in illegal acts of non re-appointment of petitioner 1 (Bakshi) as the MD of the company so that it may forcibly exercise its options to buy back shares as detailed herein above,” Bakshi's petition states.

He has gone out to state that this attempt of forcibly buying out the shares of the joint venture firm in north and east is not an isolated incident as there are may previous JVs across Asia where the conduct of McDonald's has been similar.

He has named markets such as Thailand, Indonesia and Pakistan.

When contacted for a response to Bakshi's allegations in the petition, a McDonald's spokesperson said that the matter is now before courts and that they will make their comments in the appropriate forum.

Bakshi claimed that since 2008, when the JV started making profits, McDonald's has been trying to buy him out of the company. The first offer was made in August 2008 for $5 million, which he said was "categorically rejected".

He further said his proposal for appointment a third-party evaluation of his interest was rejected by McDonald's and instead the offer to buy his entire shareholding in CPRL

was increased from $5 million to $ 7 million.

That all was not well between Bakshi and McDonald's also comes to light from another fact mentioned by the former in his petition that the latter since 2008 stifled his remuneration as MD so much so that he was not given a raise at the rate given to all the employees of the company in the last four years. “McDonald's prevented the increase in remuneration on frivolous, baseless and supposedly technical grounds,” Bakshi's petition has stated.

Bakshi has also alleged that Mcdonalds had attempted to stifle CPRL's growth.