Sunday 24 June 2018

With a combined net worth of €15.6bn, Pallonji Mistry (88) and his family have once again outdone the rest of Ireland's super rich to claim the top spot in this year's Rich List. But 2017 was, without doubt, an 'annus horribilis' for Mistry, a reclusive Indian tycoon who holds an Irish passport.

Following a boardroom coup that resulted in Mistry's son Cyrus being ousted from Tata in October 2016, one of the largest private conglomerates in the world, a bitter public row engulfed two of India's most famous business families, the Tatas and the Mistrys, for over a year.

The repercussions of the boardroom split are still being felt more than 12 months later.

Pallonji is named after his grandfather who set up the business in 1965 and went on to build a reservoir that supplied water to Mumbai residents. The bulk of the Mistry family wealth comes from their 18.4pc stake in Tata Sons, the holding company for India's Tata Group, which owns interests ranging from Jaguar to Land Rovers and Tetley Tea to vast steel works. It has massive revenues, topping $100bn in 2016/2017.

Mistry, whose personal interests include whiskey and horses, gave up his Indian passport and became an Irish citizen in 2003, on the basis of his marriage to Dublin-born Patsy Perin Dubash. Patsy was born in September 1939 in Hatch Street Nursing Home. Their children, Cyrus, Shapoor, Aloo and Laila, are also Irish citizens.

Cyrus (51) became chairman of Tata Group in 2012, the first in the company's history not to be a blood relative of the Tata family. However, he was ousted in October 2016 by the Tata board and refused to go quietly. This resulted in a high-profile row between him and group patriarch Ratan Tata, who had led the company for 21 years until 2012 and came out of retirement to serve as interim chairman after Cyrus Mistry's departure.

Then in January last year, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, the group's biggest cash cow, was named the new chairman. Among the challenges he faces are helping to cut Tata's €39bn worth of debt.

'We have far too many companies in the Tata group and some level of consolidation is essential,' the new Tata chairman vowed recently.

It is in the process of finalising a mega-merger of its European steel activities with those of German rival ThyssenKrupp to create a £13bn-a-year industry giant.

Tata has a growing footprint in Ireland, too. An online education partnership between Tata's IT services arm and the Royal College of Physicians was launched in 2016. Tata's financial links to Ireland extend to sport, too. Cricket Ireland receives €250,000 a year as part of a 10-year sponsorship and naming rights deal for its cricket academy with Indian conglomerate Shapoorji Pallonji Group, owned by the parents of Cyrus Mistry.

Almost a year after Cyrus Mistry was ousted as chairman of the Tata Group, the firm's shareholders voted to convert its holding company, Tata Sons, from a public limited company to a private one. This has substantially reduced the powers of its former chairman, Cyrus, and the Mistry family - as Tata Sons will now only need board approval for taking crucial decisions, bypassing shareholder consent required earlier.

The Mistry family's property interests include a White House-style mansion on an exclusive seaside stretch of Mumbai overlooking the Arabian Sea; a 200-acre stud farm in nearby Pune, India; a stately home in Surrey; and homes in London and Dubai.

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