Tata-Mistry Plot Thickens

Though the Ratan Tata – Cyrus Mistry conflict seems to have taken a backseat due to ongoing national and global events, the dispute continues to intensify, threatening to prolong the mayhem within the nearly USD 100 billion Tata empire that produces amenities ranging from table salt to Jaguar sports cars! The internal discord has also cost investors as Tata Group’s listed companies have over USD 10 billion in market value, underperforming India’s benchmark index, ever since Mistry was abruptly ousted as Chairman, a few weeks ago.

The interim Chairman, Ratan Tata’s camp has attempted to evict Mistry from the group’s largest subsidiary and issued a nine-page statement accusing the erstwhile Chairman of being a poor leader but a recent report by Bloomberg showed that insiders claim the allegations are unsubstantiated. One of the reasons that Cyrus Mistry was shown the door by the Tata Sons board was his “unsuitable” Strategy 2025 document that sought to outline the growth plans for the group. The board had been asking for the document for a while and when it finally arrived in September, it was found unsuitable. The following month, the board chose to replace Mistry.

Ousted Chairman Cyrus Mistry has hit back accusing Ratan Tata of making questionable investment decisions, building a cost heavy PR machinery and allowing directors to draw additional parallel commissions from operating group companies – thereby increasing expenses and failing to turnaround “inherited hotspots”, calling the allegations another brazen attempt to mislead the public and shareholders.

A Board Room confrontation between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry was averted on Thursday, 17th November, 2016, with the latter not showing up for the Board Meeting held at Bombay House. Earlier in the day, Mistry also missed the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Board Meeting. After the meeting, Tata’s IT subsidiary informed the BSE that its Board of Directors has decided to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to pass a resolution for removal of Mistry as Company Director. The EGM will be held on Tuesday, December 13, 2016.

The boardroom battle in the Tata group has escalated ever since Mistry was ousted on October 24, 2016. The Ratan Tata camp has been trying to evict Cyrus Mistry from the chairmanship of group companies and has already fired him as chairman of TCS and appointed Ishaat Hussain as the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company. However, Mistry with the support of independent directors, including Nusli Wadia, has been able to hold on to his position of Chairman of Indian Hotels Co. Ltd. (IHCL) and Tata Chemicals. Mistry has also found support in Tata Motors in a Board Meeting of the automotive company held on the 14th of November, 2016. Last week, Tata Sons, which holds 26.51% stake in Tata Motors, asked the owner of Jaguar Land Rover to convene an EGM to consider its resolution seeking removal of Chairman Cyrus Mistry and independent director Nusli Wadia. Tata Sons also has served notices to IHCL, Tata Steel and Tata Chemicals to convene shareholders meetings to oust Mistry and Wadia from their boards.

In its statement, the Tata Group has admitted to interfering with the operations of the Tata Sons Board. While Tata Sons is an unlisted holding company, it directly oversees the running of the group’s listed subsidiaries. By making this admission, the Tata Group has inadvertently opened itself up to attack.

Mistry’s hitback seems reflective of a confidence that he will come out on top should the case go to court. The community is saddened to see the feud heating up but hopes that better sense will prevail that the two visionaries will find an amicable way to resolve this discord before it is too late.

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