As Tatas rejoice over NCLT Mumbai dismissing the appeal of Cyrus Mistry over his removal as Tata Sons chairman, today's development put the spotlight back on long-drawn high-decibel boardroom battles that India Inc has witnessed.
As Tatas rejoice over NCLT Mumbai dismissing the appeal of Cyrus Mistry over his removal as Tata Sons chairman, today’s development put the spotlight back on long-drawn high-decibel boardroom battles that India Inc has witnessed. Mistry, who was suddenly removed as Chairman of Tata Sons in October 2016, had challenged his sacking and raised allegations of rampant misconduct on part of Ratan Tata and the company’s Board.
While he asserted that “an appeal on merits will be pursued”, Mistry’s opponent Tata, who had retired as Chairman of Tata Sons in December 2012, is a patriarch who ‘has been there and done that’. In the 90s, when he was still young, the veteran industrialist had seen off group satraps like Russi Mody of Tata Steel, Darbari Seth at Tata Chemicals, Ajit Kerkar at Indian Hotels, and A H Tobaccowala at Voltas.
While the Tata versus Mistry has been the most recent heavyweight showdown at the group, a walk down the memory lane brings back to light the fact that they are not the only ones to have fallen out so badly after having been together.
Ambani versus Ambani
After the death of Dhirubhai Ambani — the founder of Reliance Industries, in July 2002, there was speculation that all was not well between his sons, Mukesh and Anil. Rumours about wrangling between the Ambani brothers flew thick and fast till it was confirmed by the elder brother, Mukesh who admitted to a television channel in November 2004 that there were “ownership issues” in the Reliance group.
What followed was a bitter exchange of allegations and counter allegations through the media and it culminated with the brothers reaching a settlement in June 2005 to split the group assets. As per the family settlement, brokered by their mother Kokilaben, Mukesh got control of flagship Reliance Industries, and IPCL with interest in oil and gas, and textiles.
On the other hand, younger brother Anil got Reliance Infocomm, Reliance Energy, Reliance Capital with presence in telecom, power, financial services and entertainment. Even after the split, the two brothers continued their feud on several business matters, especially pertaining to gas and telecom.
Finally, in May 2010 they agreed to bury their differences and create an environment of harmony, co-operation and collaboration between their groups to eliminate any room for further disputes.
Infosys co-founders vs Board
The once poster-boy of Indian IT industry, Infosys was at the centre of a controversy last February when co-founders N R Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and Kris Gopalakrishna flagged what they said were corporate governance lapses. Their concerns were related to hefty pay hike to the then CEO Vishal Sikka and large severance package to former CFO Rajiv Bansal and general counsel David Kennedy as well as doubts over Panaya acquisition.
The then board of the company, chaired by R Seshasayee put up a defiant fight against the campaign launched by co-founders, specially Murthy, whose letters to the company board were most often highlighted in media. Finally, in August last year Sikka, the first non- founder CEO of Infosys Ltd, abruptly resigned citing “continuous assault” and “campaign” by Murthy.
R Seshasayee, Jeff Lehman and John Etchemendy also stepped down from the Board, while Nandan Nilekani returned as non-executive chairman of Infosys.
Earlier this year in January, Salil S Parekh was appointed as the new chief executive officer and managing director of the company.
Yes Bank: Kapoor vs Kapur
The Mumbai terror attack of November 2008 left a lasting impact on the future of Yes Bank, one of the private banks of the country. About a year after co-founder Ashok Kapur was killed in the attack, rift began to appear between his family and Rana Kapoor, the other co-founder, over appointment of director on the company’s board.
Madhu Kapur, widow of Ashok was keen to get daughter Shagun Kapur Gogia nominated as a director but Yes Bank’s board turned down the proposal citing RBI’s eligibility criteria. In 2013, Madhu Kapur and her family moved the Bombay High Court against Rana Kapoor demanding the right nominate a director to the bank’s board citing articles of association of the bank while also challenging appointment of MR Srinivasan and Diwan Arun Nanda to board as non-executive directors. A protracted legal battle followed and in June 2015, the court ruled in her favour. The court had made RBI a party to the boardroom battle.