Mistry accuses Ratan Tata of making questionable investment decisions

Tata Sons decided to exit the company at a commercial loss of Rs 1,150 crore.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: November 16, 2016 8:11 am
cyrus mistry, ratan tata, tata mistry, cyrus mistry news, tata sons, tata group, tata sons cyrus mistry Ousted Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry. (File)

Cyrus Mistry, the ousted chairman of Tata Sons, on Tuesday accused Ratan Tata of making questionable investment decisions, using Tata Sons to bear his expenses and allowing directors to draw additional parallel commission from group companies. On the other hand, between FY11 to FY15, Tata Sons networth, after considering impairments increased from Rs 26,000 crore to Rs 42,000 crore, significantly strengthening the ability to absorb future shocks, Mistry said in a statement.

He said the impairments and write downs at Tata Sons were due to legacy issues, largely relating to Tata Teleservices. “There were also other investments of questionable nature such as Nagarjuna refineries (Rs 400 crore) and SASOL JV. One investment in Piaggio Aero, a company in the aerospace sector with a friend of Tata, was especially distressing,” he said.

Tata Sons decided to exit the company at a commercial loss of Rs 1,150 crore.

This was after the efforts of Bharat Vasani and Farokh Subedar who managed to recover Rs 1,500 crore, overcoming the objections of Ratan Tata who, in contrast, favoured increasing investments in that company. Today, the company is, for all practical purposes, nearly bankrupt, he said.

“The Tata Sons full-page advertisement of 10th November fails to acknowledge that Tata Sons was also bearing the entire office costs of the Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata. This figure was about Rs 30 crore in 2015. A significant amount of which was for the use of corporate jets. This dual structure and attendant costs did not exist earlier,” Mistry’s statement said. When contacted, a Tata Sons official said it would issue a clarification on Wednesday.

According to Mistry, another significant difference was due to the cessation of services by Nira Radia (Vaishnavi Communication) who was being paid approximately Rs 40 crore per year. “She had been replaced by Arun Nanda (Rediffusion Edelman) who had been brought in by Ratan Tata at a cost of Rs 60 crore per year for PR support just prior to Mistry taking charge. It is worth noting that a part of this PR infrastructure was also provided to the Tata Trusts, while paid for by Tata Sons,” Mistry said in a statement.

Referring to the period when Ratan Tata was heading the group, Mistry said, “In the five years preceding 2012, several group centre (GCC) members held what were deemed “non-executive” roles in Tata Sons. As such, they, including Tata, drew their compensation as commissions from Tata Sons instead of salaries which skews base year comparisons.

“It is also public knowledge that several erstwhile directors of Tata Sons drew additional parallel commissions from operating group companies,” he said.

Mistry said the group centre (GEC), reporting to Mistry, drew remuneration only from Tata Sons.

“No member including Mr. Mistry took any commissions from any of the operating group companies. This arrangement was a cleaner and more transparent system to ensure that those involved in running the group were remunerated only by the group’s core investment company and not by the operating companies,” he said.

On allegations that impairments indicate an inability to turn around inherited hotspots, the statement said, “Mistry did not approach any of the businesses with a view to do a quick cleansing so that he could immediately demonstrate decent results going forward.”

“The efforts of Tata Sons, under his leadership has always been to look at strategy, structure and leadership changes to drive operational improvements before examining mergers, exits or shutdowns. All the decisions taken in this regard were in keeping with the Tata values and with the full consent of the board,” he said.

The way forward on this front was documented in the board meeting minutes as well as the 2025 Group Strategy Document, which was presented to the Tata Sons at board meetings held as early as June 2015 then in, December 2015, and further iterated in June 2016, he said.