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Cyrus Mistry (1968-2022): The 'Soft-Spoken' Tycoon With Business in His Blood

The former Tata Sons chairman died in a road accident on Sunday, 4 September.

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Fifty-four-year-old business tycoon Cyrus Mistry passed away in a road accident on Sunday, 4 September. The accident occurred at Charoti in Palghar when he was returning from Ahmedabad to Mumbai in his Mercedes. The car rammed the divider, according to the Palghar Superintendent of Police. Two people in the car, including Mistry, died on the spot, while two others have been hospitalised.

Mistry was the executive chairman of Tata Group from 2013 to 2016 and was considered one of the most powerful and influential business personalities in the country. Even so, he was often described as soft-spoken and unassuming by many in the business world and outside it. He was known to have loved golfing and was an automobile aficionado.

As condolences pour in from all quarters on the sudden demise of the businessman, we look at his life, career, and the infamous dispute between him and Ratan Tata.

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The Mistry Family

Mistry was born in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1968 to billionaire Pallonji Mistry and Patsy Perin Dubash, an Irish citizen by birth. In 2003, Pallonji Mistry gave up his Indian citizenship to become an Irish citizen along with the children.

Business was in Cyrus Mistry's blood as his family had been in the industry for generations. His grandfather, Shapoorji Mistry, first acquired a stake in Tata Sons in the 1930s. Cyrus' elder brother Shapoor Mistry is the chairman of the Shapoorji Pallonji group. He also had two sisters, Laila and Aloo; the latter is married to Ratan Tata's half-brother Noel Tata.

After doing his early education in Mumbai, Cyrus moved to London for his engineering, and subsequently, his business education.

Move to Tata Sons

Mistry joined the family construction company, 'Shapoorji Pallonji and Co', as its director in 1991. After over a decade of running the family company, Mistry joined the board of Tata Sons. He performed multiple roles across various companies of Tata, including Tata Power, Tata Elxsi, Tata Motors, and Tata Consultancy, among others.

In 2013, he was appointed as the chairman of Tata Sons, which added significant power and heft to his public persona.

Dispute Between Ratan Tata & Cyrus Mistry

The dispute between the two families began when the Tata Sons board removed Mistry as its executive chairman in 2016. The board had voted to remove Mistry from the post of chairman in a high-profile 'boardroom coup'.

Ratan Tata later said that Mistry "had a tendency to do things on his own against the earlier practice of collective decision making," in an interview with The Hindu.

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This eventually led to the start of what would be a six-year-long legal battle between the two families, ending with the Supreme Court dismissing the plea challenging its previous decision of allowing the removal of Mistry from the post of chairman, in May this year.

Tata Trust owns 66 percent of Tata Sons, while the remainder is owned by the Tata Group and smaller shareholders. The investment companies of the Mistry family are Cyrus Investments and Sterling Investments, which make up an 18.4 percent stake in Tata Sons.

In 2016, the Mistry family moved the Mumbai Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), accusing Tata Trusts and Ratan Tata of the oppression and mismanagement of Tata Sons. But the NCLT ruled against Mistry and dismissed the petitions filed against the Tatas.

However, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) subsequently overturned the decision of the NCLT and directed the Tata Sons board to reinstate Mistry. Tata Sons pushed back and moved the Supreme Court to appeal against the NCLAT order.

The Supreme Court, on 26 March 2021, said it agreed with the Tata Sons board's decision to remove Mistry.

A review petition challenging this was filed by the Mistry firms on 24 April 2021 but was dismissed by the SC in May 2022. The SC bench, led by then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, agreed to expunge certain adverse remarks made against Mistry in the earlier judgment.

(With inputs from The Hindu and Business Standard.)

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Topics:  Ratan Tata   Tata Sons   Tata Group 

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