Pallonji Mistry, billionaire caught in feud with Tata, dies at 93

NEW DELHI: Pallonji Mistry, the Indian-born billionaire whose engineering empire built luxury hotels, stadiums, palaces and factories across Asia and whose epic family showdown with the Tata Group sparked India’s largest corporate dispute, passed away in Mumbai. He was 93.
A company spokesperson confirmed the Indian tycoon’s death after social media posts about the news spread.
Mistry and her family control the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, which began more than 150 years ago and today employs more than 50,000 people in more than 50 countries, according to its website. His signature projects include the Reserve Bank of India and the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai and the blue and gold Al Alam palace for the Sultan of Oman.
Mistry amassed a net worth of nearly $29 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him one of the richest men in India and Europe. He renounced his Indian nationality and became an Irish citizen in 2003 through his long marriage to Dublin-born Patsy Perin Dubash.
However, most of the family’s wealth came from being the largest minority shareholder (18.5% as of early 2022) in Mumbai-based Tata Sons Pvt., the main investment holding company for India’s largest conglomerate. .
That gamble proved to be a double-edged sword for the media-shy Mistry, when the shock removal of her son Cyrus as chairman of Tata Sons in 2016 triggered a very public battle in the courts and boardrooms between two of the corporate executives. with more history of India. clans.
The country’s top court ruled in 2021 that Cyrus’ ouster was legal and also upheld Tata Sons’ rules on minority shareholder rights, making it difficult to sell shares without board approval. That meant the stake, worth nearly $30 billion as of early 2022, was basically illiquid.
first partners
The family business was founded in 1865, when Pallonji Mistry’s grandfather started a construction business with an Englishman. The initial project was the first reservoir in Mumbai, then known as Bombay. The company began doing business with the Tata family in the 1920s; both families are Zoroastrians whose ancestors fled Persia to India to escape religious persecution.
Mistry was born on June 1, 1929 in Bombay. His father, Shapoorji mysteryHe worked in the family business, which the son joined in 1947.
He led the company’s expansion into the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai, in 1970. He was awarded a contract to build the Sultan of Oman’s palace in 1971 and many ministerial buildings there.
His management style and desire to expand globally contrasted sharply with that of his father, who traveled abroad only twice to help some family members seek medical treatment, according to the 2007 book “Moguls of Real Estate.” by Manoj Namburu.
Unlike her father, who exercised personal control over the smallest detail and had his engineers report to him daily on projects, Mistry delegated authority, retaining only supervisory and planning powers.
To protect the company’s reputation, Mistry was often willing to complete a construction project even at a loss, according to “Moguls of Real Estate,” which quoted Zafar Iqbal, former CEO of SP Group.
Under his supervision, the business grew into a conglomerate that included real estate, water, energy, and financial services. His stake in Forbes & Company Ltd. provided access to businesses in textiles, engineering, home appliances and shipping, while he had a majority stake in Afcons Infrastructure, which built projects in India.
Hard times
To Indians, in addition to the Oberoi hotel and the RBI building in the nation’s financial hub, the company is also known for building the Mumbai World Trade Center in 1970 and the Imperial, two 60-story residential towers, in the city. in 2010. It also built an 80-acre (32-hectare) information technology park called Ozone, in the western Indian city of Pune. That was an offshoot of a 110-acre stud farm that Mistry bought in the 1980s, which later bred Indian Derby-winning stallions, according to Namburu’s book.
The family’s share in Tata Sons increased as the company built car factories and steel mills for the group. His father also bought shares of members of the Tata family over the years. Meanwhile, Tata’s portfolio has expanded to more than 100 companies, including brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Tetley Tea and Corus Steel.
The Indian media called Mistry “the Ghost of Bombay House”, the headquarters of the Tata group, because he was rarely seen there and because of his calm demeanor and avoidance of the media. The family is generally secretive and even details such as when he and his wife married are not publicly known.
Mistry took a backseat after Shapoor, her eldest son, took over as chairman of SP Group companies in 2004.
boardroom coup
Cyrus became president of Tata Sons in 2012, succeeding Ratan Tata. But he was ousted four years later in a coup led by Tata Trusts, which owned 66% of Tata Sons and was controlled by Ratan Tata. The dispute escalated with allegations of mismanagement and suppression of minority shareholder rights. The 2021 court ruling in favor of Tata left bridges burned between the two families, who had been partners for 70 years. After his stint at Tata, Cyrus started a venture capital firm, Mistry Ventures LLP.
Despite a diversified set of businesses, the SP Group was forced to consider asset sales when faced with a cash shortage, mounting debt and even a payment default in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic hit its real estate operations main. In October 2021, a unit of Reliance Industries Ltd. agreed to acquire 40% of Sterling & Wilson Solar from Mistry.
In addition to her two sons, Mistry had two daughters, Laila and Aloo. She the latter married Noel Tata, the half-brother of Ratan Tata, who was named chairman emeritus of Tata Sons.

Leave a Comment