MUMBAI, Sept 4: Cyrus Mistry, who burst onto India’s business stage big time with his appointment as the chairman of Tata Sons in 2012 before a boardroom feud forced his exit, was killed in a car crash in Maharashtra’s Palghar district near Mumbai on Sunday.
Mistry, 54, and a man identified as Jahangir Pandole were killed when his luxury car hit a road divider, while eminent gynecologist, Anahita Pandole (55), and her husband Darius Pandole (60) survived the crash. Jahangir is the brother of Darius, a former independent director of the Tata Group of companies who had opposed Cyrus Mistry’s removal as the chairman.
Mistry, an Irish citizen and scion of the real estate behemoth Shapoorji Pallonji Group, who was already heading family-owned companies when he was appointed to succeed Ratan Tata as the head of the over USD 100 billion Tata Group, was on his way from Ahmedabad to Mumbai when the tragedy occurred around 3:15 PM on the bridge on the Surya river at Charoti Naka, 120 km away from Mumbai.
“The accident occurred on the bridge over the Surya river, killing Mistry and another person on the spot while two others have been shifted to Gujarat for further treatment,” said Palghar district superintendent of police, Balasaheb Patil.
According to initial information, the Mercedes Benz car, with Anahita Pandole at the wheel, was speeding and tried to overtake another vehicle from the wrong side, a police official told PTI.
“A woman was driving the car and tried to overtake another vehicle from the left side, but lost control and crashed into the road divider,” an eyewitness said, corroborating the official about the possible reason for the accident.
Mistry and Jahangir were on the rear seats, the official said.
Darius and Anahita have been shifted to a private hospital in Gujarat’s Vapi for further treatment, said Palghar district superintendent of police, Balasaheb Patil.
The police officer said the bodies of Mistry and Jahangir Pandole have been shifted to the Kasa Rural Hospital for postmortem.
Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio, has asked police to conduct a detailed investigation.
Cyrus’ death has come as a second big blow to the influential family within a few months as his father Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, also called the ‘Phantom of Bombay House’ for subtle but substantial influence he wielded at the Tata Group headquarters, had died in June.
The sudden death of Mistry, the first person outside the Tata pedigree to occupy the top position in the group, plunged the country’s business and political class into grief, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling it a “big loss to the world of commerce and industry”.
“The untimely demise of Shri Cyrus Mistry is shocking. He was a promising business leader who believed in India’s economic prowess,” Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet while offering condolences to his family and friends.
“Saddened by the tragic news of the demise of former chairman of Tata Sons, Cyrus Mistry. He was amongst the brightest business minds of the country, who made a significant contribution to India’s growth story. My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and admirers,” former Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter.
Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran, the second person outside the Tata family to occupy the top position in the group, condoled the death of Mistry, a man who, he said, had a passion for life.
“I am deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely demise of Mr Cyrus Mistry. He had a passion for life and it is really tragic that he passed away at such a young age,” Chandrasekaran said in a statement.
Low-profile to the extent of being called reclusive, the then 44-year-old Mistry was reluctant to take up the challenging job of the Tata Sons chairman but agreed after some persuasion, including by Ratan Tata himself.
To some, it was an audacious move to appoint a relatively young person to head a big corporation like the Tatas.
However, only after four years at the helm, Mistry was replaced in a boardroom coup in October 2016, which saw Ratan Tata come back to helm the group before the reins were passed on to N Chandrasekhar.
Even the might of Pallonji Mistry could not save his chair at the Bombay House, after Mistry Jr launched a wide-ranging drive to improve governance practices at the group.
The feud turned bitter, with the once demure Mistry turning dauntless and dragging the storied corporate grouping 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 that led to the sudden removal from the chairman’s post.
Since the exit, the Mistry family, which is the single-largest shareholder of Tata Sons with over 18 per cent holding, has often been at loggerheads and has offered to offload its entire stake leading to speculations over the valuation of the group.
Mistry returned to his reclusive self in the years after a high decibel campaign he launched in the immediate aftermath of his exit.
Clarity on what exactly led the conscientious Tata Group to expel Mistry barely four years into his tenure remained elusive till his untimely death in the Sunday car crash. (PTI)