Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) Owner VG Siddhartha News: Cafe Coffee Day founder V G Siddhartha, who was found dead on the banks of the Netravati river near Mangaluru, was cremated Wednesday evening. Hundreds of people paid a tearful homage to the ‘Coffee King” at his Chetanahali estate in his ancestral village in Chikkamagaluru.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was among the first to pay last respects to Siddhartha, who was also the son-in-law of former chief minister S M Krishna. Siddhartha was first reported missing on Monday evening by his driver, who was the last to see him. The body, which had washed ashore near Ullal this morning, was discovered by fishermen at 4.30 am, following which police reached the spot.
Earlier today, Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd named independent director SV Ranganath as the interim chairman after the body of founder-owner VG Siddhartha was found on the banks of the Netravati river near Mangaluru at 4.30 am Wednesday.
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“The board appointed SV Ranganath as the interim chairman and Nitin Bagmane as an interim chief operating officer (COO) of the company,” Coffee Day Enterprises, which runs India’s biggest coffee chain CCD, said in a regulatory filing.
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Dangerous signal for country: Mamata Banerjee
Condoling the death of coffee tycoon VG Siddhartha, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it is a “dangerous signal for the country.. if all industrialists leave the country or commit suicide.” “I’m feeling sad today because it should not be the future of the industry or agriculture,” she said.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, who was present at the last rites, called Siddhartha “a simple man, a pioneer in popularising Indian coffee in the world.” “I can’t even imagine why a person who would have been under the guidance of SM Krishna Ji end his life. I give my tributes to his family,” he said.
Hours before his disappearance, Siddhartha had called his personal staff at the Cafe Coffee Day head office in Bengaluru and informed them about a letter to be disseminated. The purported letter referred to the “tremendous pressure” he was under from lenders and “harassment” from Income Tax officials. And that he was “very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me”.
Police sources said that the July 27 letter that Siddhartha left behind and final conversations he had with a few staff members suggested he was not his usual self. “He told one staff member to look after the interests of the firm after clearing an outstanding loan. He seemed emotional. This was a bit out of character for the businessman,” sources said.
Not only do these issues find mention in Siddhartha’s note to the board of directors of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd and his employees, the publicly-listed company’s latest annual report also bears testimony to its rising liabilities.
Cafe Coffee Day, India’s biggest coffee chain, of late, was battling to repay its debt which topped almost Rs 4,500 crore. Though the group had raised debt from banks, mutual funds and NBFCs among others, Siddhartha’s letter to the board made public Tuesday also points to pressure from a private equity partner to buy-back its holdings in Coffee Day Enterprises. It said the private equity partner exerted pressure on him and his businesses.
While Siddhartha also wrote about enforcement action by tax department in the letter, the department said it acted as per legal provisions. In a press statement, the Office of Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Karnataka and Goa, Bangalore (B.R. Balakrishnan) said the provisional attachment of shares was made to protect the interests of revenue out of the income admitted by him based on “credible evidence gathered during searches”. The department had attached Mindtree shares held by Siddhartha and Coffee Day which delayed the Larsen and Toubro deal to buy Mindtree. “This was very unfair and has led to a serious liquidity crunch,” Siddhartha’s letter said.
After VG Siddhartha’s death, shares of CCD further plummeted 20 per cent to hit its lowest trading permissible limit for the day. The scrip tumbled 20 per cent to Rs 123.25 — its 52-week low level as well as its lowest trading permissible limit for the day — on the BSE. At the NSE, it dropped 20 per cent to hit its one year low as also its lower limit of Rs 122.75.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyuarppa said he is “deeply shocked and hurt” by the demise of VG Siddhartha. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda also took to Twitter to express his condolences. “I am shocked by the demise of V G Siddhartha. He was a very simple man. I knew him for the past 35 years. He had paved way for jobs for thousands of people. The government should properly investigate the cause of his tragic death,” he wrote in Kannada.
Former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah called the CCD owner’s death “both disturbing and mysterious.” “The reasons and the invisible hands that ended his life in this tragic way should be unearthed through impartial and fair investigation,” he said. “The letter supposed to have written by V G Siddhartha few days before his death has discussed about tax terrorism, which is an ugly face of politically motivated institutions. What signals are we sending to the budding entrepreneurs without even an attempt to reform?” he further added