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Truce talks opened in legacy row
- Efforts on to stave off Birla-Lodha court clash; shares of MP group firms rally as market shrugs off spat

Calcutta, July 15: Talks have started between the Birlas and R. S. Lodha, to whom Priyamvada Birla has left a legacy of Rs 5,000 crore, to settle the issue out of court.

“Protracted negotiations have begun between the Birlas and Lodhas. It is learnt that senior Lodha is talking to Sudarshan Birla while his son, Aditya V. Lodha, has opened lines of communication with Kumar Mangalam Birla to get a mutually acceptable deal,” Birla Building sources and close friends of the Lodhas said.

S. K. Birla, however, shut the door on chances of a truce. “I haven’t initiated talks with them (the Lodha family) and would like to clarify that there is no such possibility.”

The Lodhas were not available for comment. Anamika Lodha, wife of Harsh Lodha, opened the door at their eighth floor flat at National Tower. She would not say if the family was at Birla Park, the venue of Priyamvada’s mourning ceremony, and apparently the meeting ground of confidants of the Lodhas and Birlas. “I cannot comment whether our members are there. Please leave your contact number. They will reach you.”

The building at 13, U. . Bramhachari Road, near the Belle Vue Clinic, has been let out to the Lodhas by Life Insurance of Corporation for years. The nameplate still mentions J. S. Lodha, R. S. Lodha’s father.

The Birlas and Lodhas, meanwhile, were scrambling for advice from legal eagles like Dipankar Gupta, Pradip Ghosh, Anindya Mitra, Saktinath Mukherjee and Debal Banerjee on ways to reach a settlement.

One of the options being explored would involve transferring the entire assets of the MP Birla group to a trust, which would be headed by a Birla with Lodha as the managing trustee. That way, Lodha will not secure full control but merely receive dividends as a shareholder.

Amid attempts to get to an agreement, the Birlas put out a statement saying the “families are united to secure the estate for charity, as the late M. P. Birla had intended. None of them would like to have any share of the assets of M. P. Birla and his wife, Priyamvada.”

The rush to get legal opinion is being seen as an indication that both sides do not rule out a court contest, if attempts to reach a deal fail. Solicitors in the city say lawyers of Lodhas and the Birlas are plotting strategies.

“The history of the Birlas shows that they settle matters through discussions. This case will not be any different. But the first thing to be done is to find out whether Priyamvada’s will is authentic,” family watchers said.

Friends close to the Lodhas said they are people who have had years of good relationship with the Birlas. “They will not like to take on the Birlas.”

The Lodha camp is sending out the message that it has no intention of deriving pecuniary benefits out of the legacy. Lodha merely wants to act as custodian for the assets, sources close to the family say. On Wednesday, Aditya told The Telegraph that they might go public with their stand after the 13-day mourning ceremony is over. It got over today.

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