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'Professional' Anil fences power turf

Mumbai, Nov. 28: Anil Ambani was at Tirupati yesterday, mother Kokilaben headed to the ashram of her guru at Bhavnagar in Gujarat today.

After saying his prayers at the temple of god, Anil paid obeisance at the temple of business, seeking to protect his position at its head.

The younger Ambani sent an email to the 25,000 employees of Reliance Energy, emphasising that he leads the company as a professional and on the strength of being elected to the position by the shareholders.

'The BSES (previous name of Reliance Energy) board elected me as chairman and managing director. This decision was unanimously approved by the shareholders of the company at their general body meeting on 15th February 2003,' the email said.

Anil cites the resignation of half a dozen board members ' perceived to be close to Anil ' as the reason for his communication.

'Last Thursday, six directors of Reliance Energy tendered their resignations to the board. This development, widely commented upon in the media, has left all of you with a sense of anguish and uncertainty. I fully understand and appreciate these concerns,' he said.

The board will meet within the next few days to consider the resignations and Anil has requested the six to continue until a decision is taken. By resigning, they have denied Reliance Industries, which nominated them to the board of Reliance Energy, the opportunity to recall them and name replacements who would be hostile to Anil.

By virtue of its 50 per cent shareholding, Reliance Industries ' under Mukesh's control ' can recall Anil, too. His email seeks to drum up support for himself in the event of such a possibility.

Playing the role of the underdog, he says: 'Like most of you, I too have no personal shareholding in Reliance Energy. I am here as a professional to serve the interests of all our stakeholders. For me, professionalism is a value system, a state of mind, and above all, a culture of respect for all.'

The letter invokes the name of his father several times, narrating how the company had striven to fulfil Dhirubhai's dream of turning the group's power business into a 'beacon of excellence'.

Anil mentions how the company has grown under his charge ' with profits going up from Rs 162 crore to Rs 367 crore. He also emphasises that shareholder wealth (value of the company's shares) has soared from Rs 3,000 crore to over Rs 10,000 crore.

Analysts saw in these statements an attempt to tell the world that Reliance Energy has performed well under him and as a professional he deserves to continue to run the company.

There is also admission that since he has no 'personal shareholding' in the company, he is no position to guarantee his continuance as chairman. Or that he fears he could be removed ' not for underperforming but as a consequence of the battle with Mukesh.

Reliance Energy came into existence in February 2004 after BSES was renamed and calls itself 'A Dhirubhai Ambani Enterprise', a label even Reliance Industries has yet to affix on itself.

'Reliance, Dhirubhai Ambani would often say, has been built on the foundation of relationship and trust. We have always endeavoured, as an organisation, to exemplify that principle in all our actions,' says Anil's letter.

In the middle of the apparent lack of trust between her sons, Kokilaben paid a visit to spiritual guru Morari Bapu at his Bhavnagar ashram. She spent around two hours with him. An ashram spokesman said it was after one-and-a-half years that someone from the family had come there.

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