The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anil touches base with market cop

Mumbai, May 6: Anil Ambani today held talks with Sebi chairman M. Damodaran here in a one-hour meeting that sparked fresh speculation on what the younger scion of the Reliance group told the market super cop.

The timing of the meeting is crucial as Anil has recently upped the ante in his faceoff with brother Mukesh by accusing Reliance of falling short on corporate governance.

An agency report quoted Damodaran as saying the meeting was only a 'courtesy call'. Anilís spokesperson declined comment.

The talks come at a time when differences between the two brothers on ownership issues appear unbridgeable. Anil has gone on the offensive, meeting senior officials and writing letters to those in positions of authority.

He has tried to involve every government agency overseeing the corporate sector and business. These include the department of company affairs, Sebi, registrar of companies and the finance ministry. In his submissions to them, he has tried to draw attention to governance issues within Reliance Industries, where, he said last month, he was ranged against the 'RIL eleven'. The reference was to the number of directors on its board.

Even as Anil went public with his grievances at the meeting, Mukesh has been building up his case too. The Reliance chairman met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week while his cousin and board member, Nikhil Meswani, went into a huddle with a finance ministry top gun.

Both factions have been silent. Anilís camp has raised issues and brought it to public domain, while Mukeshís trouble-shooters are quelling fires wherever possible by bringing their perspective to the points raised.

It is an even fight, say observers tracking the controversy, even though Mukesh, with his firm grip on the reins of the Rs 99,000-crore conglomerate, seems to be on the defensive on some of the issues raised by Anil.

Mukesh was vindicated when a three-member RIL committee on corporate governance, headed by Y. P. Trivedi and with two other independent board members, gave him a clean chit on the points raised by Anil.

The differences came to the fore after a lull, on the day the board of Reliance Capital met. It was here that a holding firm was found to have sold a 50 per cent stake in IPCL, apparently without informing Anil or other shareholders. The holding company was Reliance Petroinvest, and the equity palmed off was worth Rs 1000 crore.

Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, a close associate of Anil, objected to the sale of the stake at the Reliance Capital board meeting.

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