MUMBAI: Cyrus Mistry, who died in a car accident in Maharashtra’s Palghar on September 4, was already heading companies in the Shapoorji Pallonji Group – the family business – when he was named successor to Ratan Tata as the head of the Tata Group in 2012.
Till his appointment as the Chairman of Tata Sons, not many knew of Cyrus Mistry, who was then associated only with his family business. The then 44-year-old Mistry was reluctant to take up the job but some persuasion, including by Ratan Tata himself, led him to accept the offer. After four years at the helm, Mistry was replaced in a boardroom coup in October 2016, which saw Ratan Tata coming back to head the group before the reins were passed on to N Chandrasekhar.
It turned bitter, with Mistry dragging the corporate group to courts to get the reasons for his exit. Mistry claimed his work was appreciated a few months before and wanted to know the reasons for his ouster. The might of his father Pallonji Mistry, who was called as the ‘Phantom of Bombay House’ for the influence he wielded at the Tata Group headquarters, did not help him in any way.
During his time at the helm of Tata Group, Mistry depended on a specially created group executive council (GEC) consisting of handpicked executives from within Tata Group, industry executives and also academia to drive operations. He was termed as a studious backroom executive who had a sharp mind. A reclusive with a conviction for the work to do the talking meant there was very little known about Mistry even during his time at the helm. He did not do a single media interview from Bombay House but opened up to speak in the days following his ouster. Mistry withdrew back to his reclusive self in the years after a high-decibel campaign in the immediate aftermath of his exit.
Besides Bombay Dyeing’s Nusli Wadia and childhood friend and NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, no big name stood by him.
On the legal front, Mistry first went to the National Company Law Tribunal, which dismissed his petition challenging the manner in which he was ousted and ruled that the Board and majority shareholders had lost confidence in him. He, however, successfully appealed in the National Company Appellate Tribunal, but the Supreme Court sided with the Tatas who had gone in appeal. The only reprieve he got from the apex court was to delete some adverse remarks made in the original judgment.
After Cyrus’s stint in Tata Sons, he did not take back management control at Shapoorji Pallonji Group; instead he carved something for himself. He floated a venture capital fund, Mistry Ventures, to back startups. Cyrus and his brother had a combined net worth of $29 billion, majority of which is derived from Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s 18.4 per cent stake in Tata Sons. After the legal case with Tata Sons, Cyrus shifted to Dubai and was overseeing the Group’s international operations. His two children, Firoz and Zahan, had recently joined the family-owned business.