Vijay Mallya: From Bad to Worse for ‘King of Good Times’

Vijay Mallya: From bad to worse for ‘King of Good Times

Updated
Business
3 min read
Force India team owner Vijay Mallya gives the thumb up at the end of the third practice session of the Italian F1 Grand Prix in Monza September 12, 2009.  (Photo: Reuters)

Things appear to be going from bad to worse for Vijay Mallya, once known as ‘King of Good Times’, with the board of a company he nurtured into India’s largest liquor maker asking him to quit.

Mallya, already fighting on a number of other fronts including the ‘wilful defaulter’ charges, recently also saw one of the Kingfisher aircraft being sold to a scrap dealer in Mumbai, who sold it after tearing it apart into pieces.

This followed lenders taking possession of Kingfisher House near airport in Mumbai, on which tax department has also staked its claim to recover its own dues.

Mallya, however, continues to strike a defiant note and has refused to step down while taking refuse in “certain contractual obligations” that require United Spirits’ current owner Diageo to back his position as Chairman.

While Diageo is yet to make its position public, sources have said that the UK-based liquor giant, which spent $ three billion (about Rs 20,000 crore) to buy 55 per cent stake in USL, may invoke “certain defaults” on the part of Mallya and his UB Group to support the board resolution of his ouster if shareholders are required to vote on the same.

Vijay Mallya (C) poses with bollywood actresses Lara Dutta (L), Sameera Reddy (2nd L), Shilpa Shetty (2nd R) and Shamita Shetty during the launch function for the team’s new car for 2008 in Mumbai February 7, 2008.
Vijay Mallya (C) poses with bollywood actresses Lara Dutta (L), Sameera Reddy (2nd L), Shilpa Shetty (2nd R) and Shamita Shetty during the launch function for the team’s new car for 2008 in Mumbai February 7, 2008.

The board is already dominated by Diageo representatives with Mallya being the only one from his UB Group, which now owns just about 3 per cent stake in USL including a fractional 0.01 per cent in his name.

Mallya has been in the dock ever since his ambitious airline venture Kingfisher landed in financial troubles and got eventually grounded in October 2012.

Thereafter, Mallya had to sell some of his assets, including controlling stake in USL to Diageo.

The UB Group, where Mallya became chairman at the age of 28 after death of his father in 1983, was considered one of India’s largest conglomerates till a few years ago with turnover of over $ 4 billion and market value of $ 12 billion.

It had diverse interests in brewing, distilling, real estate, engineering, fertilisers, biotechnology, information technology and aviation, while it was also the largest Indian manufacturer of beverage alcohol -- beer and spirit.

Now, the aviation venture is grounded since 2012, a takeover battle is on for fertilisers arm, while control or major stakes have passed away to new owners at some other entities including the group’s erstwhile flagship firm USL.

Prior to becoming UB Chairman, Mallya worked for the American Hoechst Corporation (now Sanofi-Aventis) in the US and with Jenson and Nicholson in the UK. In 1980, he began assisting his father in managing the Brewing and Spirits Divisions and in re-launching the Kingfisher Brand of Beer.

In aviation, he pegged Kingfisher as the country’s only luxurious airline and later acquired Air Deccan to foray into low-cost market. Emerging as one of the most flamboyant businessmen, he bought an IPL team (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and was also the first Indian ever to become the owner of a Formula One Team, where he later brought in Sahara group, another embattled corporate house, as a partner.

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