The founder-owner of Cafe Coffee Day, VG Siddhartha, who went missing since Monday night, was found dead early Wednesday morning on the banks of the Netravati river near Mangaluru. Siddhartha was the son-in-law of former Karnataka chief minister SM Krishna.
A massive search operation was launched by the police on Tuesday, with teams from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coast Guard, Home Guard, fire services and coastal police assisting in the efforts.
In the last 24 hours since his disappearance, a purported letter written by him to his employees became public, giving a sense of the financial strain he was under.
Here is the sequence of what all happened since Siddhartha went missing:
When did the CCD owner go missing?
# Siddhartha was reported missing from Mangaluru on Tuesday, after leaving for the city from Bengaluru the previous night. Siddhartha, who was en route to Sakaleshpur on a business trip, was last seen near Ullal bridge over the Netravati River. He had left for Mangaluru from Bengaluru around 12:30 pm on Monday.
# Around 5:28 pm, Siddhartha’s car crossed the Brahmarakootlu toll gate. After they reached Mahaveer Circle, the CCD owner asked his driver Basavaraj Patil (27) to drive towards Kasaragod in Kerala to visit a company site.
# But after reaching Nethravathi bridge around 6 pm, the 55-year-old businessman changed his mind again and reportedly asked the driver to take him near the bridge, from where he got down and said he was going for a walk. Siddhartha was talking over the phone then.
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Siddhartha’s driver informs police
# When Siddhartha did not return for two hours, his driver tried to call him but his number was switched off. He then called Siddhartha’s son and then the police. “He (Siddhartha) asked the driver to wait till his arrival. When he did not return even after two hours, the driver approached the police and lodged a missing complaint,” deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada district Senthil Sasikant Senthil said.
# The Karnataka Police found that the last cell location for one of his phones was in the Jeppu area of Mangaluru across the bridge where the entrepreneur was last seen. “The cell location may be for the general area around the river and not specifically Jeppu,” sources said.
Police begin search operation
# Around 9:30 pm, police began a search operation. Over 200 policemen and divers on about 25 boats, NDRF, Coast Guard, Home Guard, fire services, coastal police, one chopper and Sniffer dogs were deployed at the site. The help of local fishermen was also taken in the search.
Political leaders visit SM Krishna’s residence
# Later in the day, a group of Karnataka BJP MPs led by Karandlaje met BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah and sought help from the Centre in tracing the missing CCD founder. Karandlaje said, “The heavy rains and the current weather conditions in Karnataka is causing problem for the speedy search operation. Therefore, I request your good self to help government of Karnataka by sending coastal guard, central forces and helicopters in this search operation…”
# Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, Congress leader D K Shivakumar and other political leaders visited Krishna at his residence in Bengaluru.
What Siddhartha said in his letter
# Hours before his disappearance was reported, Siddhartha called his personal staff at the company 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.
# In the letter, Siddhartha said: “After 37 years with strong commitment to hard work having directly created 30,000 jobs in our companies and their subsidiaries, as well as 20,000 jobs in technology company where I have been a large shareholder since its founding, I have failed to create the right profitable business model despite my efforts.”
# “I fought for a long time but today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure from one of the private equity partners forcing me to buy back shares, a transaction I had partially completed six months ago by borrowing a large sum of money from a friend.”
# The CCD board, in a statement, said: “The board also reviewed a copy of the letter purportedly signed by Mr. V. G. Siddhartha dated July 27, 2019, and has shared a copy of the letter with relevant authorities. The board has also sought the assistance of local and state authorities, who are doing their utmost, and relevant officers of the Company are cooperating with the authorities as requested.”
Siddhartha’s body found
# Around 24 hours after the massive search operation, his body was found on the banks of the Netravati river near Mangaluru at 4.30 am Wednesday. His family has confirmed his identity and the cremation is likely to be held today.
# The body, which had washed ashore near Ullal this morning, was discovered by fishermen, following which police reached the spot, news agency PTI reported. His body has been kept at Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru, from where it will be taken to Chettanahalli estate near Mudigere.