Narayana Murthy vs Infosys board: No war here, says chairman R Seshasayee

By: | Published: April 14, 2017 4:59 AM

Chairman says Ravi Venkatesan’s appointment as co-chairman on the company’s board should not be seen as an attempt to broker peace

Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka (right) and COO UB Pravin Rao arrive for a press conference to announce the firm’s annual financial results at its headquarters in Bengaluru on Thursday

Infosys chairman R Seshasayee on Thursday said there is no war between the company’s board and the co-founders, and that there is no need for new co-chairman Ravi Venkatesan to play the role of a peacemaker. In an interview with a television channel, Seshasayee said the appointment of Ravi Venkatesan as co-chairman on the board of Infosys should not be seen as an attempt to broker peace between the co-founders and the board. “Peace maker role arises only if there is a war. I have consistently said there is no war. There are some intense statements made about a viewpoint. We have consistently said that we are very responsible and act as an independent board,” Seshasayee said. “There is no turf war. The board operates on the basis of consensus and unanimous view point and come together in one shape and form,” he added.

Recently, Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy, along with other co-founders, had expressed unhappiness over the way in which the board led by Seshasayee handled the issue of raising the compensation of MD and CEO Vishal Sikka. Murthy was also very critical of the high severance package offered to former chief financial officer Rajiv Bansal. The board had approved a compensation of $11 million to Sikka from the $7.08 million specified earlier and had approved a generous severance package of `17.38 crore in October 2015 to Bansal, which had irritated the founders. Murthy also raised objection against the salary hike to Pravin Rao, the chief operating officer. This had led to an atmosphere of unease between the co-founders and the board led by Seshasayee.

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Seshasayee also clarified that Ravi Venkatesan’s appointment was a unanimous decision of the board and not made on the basis of any recommendation from the promoters. “There was no recommendation. As I said very clearly that I wanted the bandwidth to be increased and Ravi will take part of the load. Investors are happy with the decisions of the board,” Seshasayee said.

He said over the last few months, the board had felt the need to step up the engagement with the company.

“We already have phenomenal amount of engagement with each member of the board and I can say with some degree of certainty that we are probably the only board where the board members work so hard immensely. We are proud of the fact that we are an extremely cohesive and hard working board,” he added.

Agreeing with Seshasayee, Venkatesan said, “I live in Bengaluru. Most of the founders have been my friends of long standing. There is a friendly relationship and that will continue. I don’t see the need for an official peace maker role,” Venkatesan told the television channel.

When questioned on what value addition he (Venkatesan) would bring to the board, Venkatesan said his primary focus would be to carry forward the transformation Infosys MD & CEO Vishal Sikka is driving in the company. “People need to realise that IT industry is going through a transition and business models are shifting. We have to work together. On some matters, I will take lead and he (Seshasayee) and others will support. There is not going to be a water tight compartment. We will continue to focus on Vishal and the management on strategy and execution,” Venkatesan said.

Commenting on the need for expanding the Infosys board, Seshasayee said that they are looking for appropriate and competent people to expand the board.

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