Thursday 21 February 2019

With a combined net worth of €16.1bn, the family of Pallonji Mistry (89), a reclusive Indian tycoon with an Irish passport, continues to hold the top spot in this year's Rich List as the value of his lucrative holdings in India's largest conglomerate grew further.

Mistry, whose wealth is largely tied up in an 18.4pc shareholding in the Tata Group, gave up his Indian passport and became an Irish citizen in 2003, on the basis of his marriage to Dublin-born Patsy Perin Dubash.

Last year was a landmark one for Tata, with local Indian press reporting that its value had topped the $100bn mark in March. That was driven by the growth of some of its roughly 100 subsidiaries, including IT giant TCS.

But it has not been all positive news in recent times for the Mistrys when it comes to their relationship with Tata. Over the last three years, the family has been involved in a high-profile legal and boardroom dispute that continues to rumble on.

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. His wife Patsy - his main connection with Ireland - was born in September 1939 in Hatch Street Nursing Home. Their children, Cyrus, Shapoor, Aloo and Laila, are also Irish citizens.

Cyrus found himself in the spotlight in 2016 when he was ousted from the board of Tata following a major row. The falling-out between the Mistry and Tata families - two of India's most famous business dynasties - went public and the repercussions of the boardroom split are still being felt.

Cyrus had become chairman of Tata Group in 2012, the first in the company's history not to be a blood relative of the Tata family. However, when he refused to go quietly in 2016 it resulted in a high-profile row between him and group patriarch Ratan Tata, who had led the company for 21 years until 2012. He came out of retirement to serve as interim chairman after Cyrus's departure. But lawyers on behalf of Cyrus have argued that his removal from the board was 'an act of oppression of the minority shareholders' of Tata Group.

'The board removed him just like that. The board did not have anything in relation to the removal of the chairman on its agenda on that day. He can't be removed as he displeases the majority shareholders,' his lawyer told a tribunal when the case resumed in earlier this month.

But business at the huge conglomerate has carried on regardless, only adding to the Mistry family wealth despite the dispute. Tata's steel manufacturing subsidiary is awaiting approval from competition authorities for a huge merger of its European steel activities with those of German rival ThyssenKrupp to create a €14.5bn-a-year industry giant and the second biggest steel company in Europe.

Tata Steel said in January that plant shutdowns had seen its European production fall sharply towards the end of 2018 so it is no doubt eager to get the thumbs-up from the European Commission to push on with its plans.

Tata has a growing footprint in Ireland, too. It owns car giant Jaguar Land Rover, which has implemented high-profile cutbacks in the UK but which, during 2018, opened a software engineering centre in Shannon, Co Clare, creating 150 jobs.

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 previously.

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.

Online Editors

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