The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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King of good life savours a buy

Mumbai, March 22: In a Hawaiian shirt and white shorts, Vijay Mallya emerges on the deck of the Indian Princess, chewing on a Henri Winterman's Caf' Cr'me cigar.

Cruel, the March sun beats down on him on the 55-metre-long luxury yacht. But Mallya is basking under a different sun, having just returned from Dubai after a Rs 1,300-crore buy.

He holds a pint of beer ' Kingfisher, obviously ' in his right hand, the finger sporting a ring with a huge stone just about touching the sweating surface of the chilled bottle. Up around the wrist is wrapped a diamond-studded watch, set off by a gold bracelet on the other hand.

As Mallya says: 'These are opportunities to advertise, as my business has some restrictions.'

His business has just grown to 60 per cent of the organised liquor market in India, with the chunky Shaw Wallace in its belly. Yesterday, it was announced that Mallya had bought the Calcutta-based liquor company from the Chhabrias.

'It's a complex deal. Jumbo (the Dubai-based Chhabria company that owned Shaw Wallace) will take care of rest,' Mallya told The Telegraph.

The deal done in Dubai, Mallya is relaxing with friends, anchored off the Gateway of India in the Arabian Sea. After all, he's been stalking Shaw Wallace for two decades and took some 60 days to seal the purchase.

Giving him company on the over Rs 100-crore yacht ' that has four decks, seven guest cabins and 15 crew members ' are fashion designers Prasad Bidappa and Manoviraj Khosla and a few models. On the other side, deck hands are polishing bronze statuettes of nubile women holding lamps.

'I steered clear of their family problems,' Mallya said about the women in the Chhabria family. The late Manohar Chhabria has left behind wife Vidya and three daughters. But Mallya did not name anyone.

He might have been referring to the reported differences between Komal Wazir, the second daughter who did not want to sell and had got her mother on her side, and the others. 'I am very happy with Vidya Chhabria and she was gracious and supportive in the end,' Mallya said.

He smiles when asked if the Chhabrias fell in line after he announced an open offer to acquire a 25 per cent stake in Shaw Wallace. 'It was a strategic move and that worked.'

The Rajya Sabha member says he is proud to be an Indian and asks everyone to be happy that an Indian company is among the top three in the world, which is what his business has now become.

The Indian Princess, which can go on long cruises up to 3,000 nautical miles (from Europe to the Caribbean without refuelling), will sail to Goa and then Lakshadweep where Mallya will again come on board with his family for a holiday. After that, it would head to Monaco in time for the Formula One race where he will join his entourage.

Is all this real ' the image of the king of good times' 'I have lived my brand,' he says.

Like Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Airlines, among other things'

Come on! 'He is the British version of Vijay Mallya.'

In the sun, the diamond rocks set in platinum glisten on Mallya's ears.

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