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Birla patriarch alters succession plan

Calcutta, June 27: Basant Kumar Birla, the grand old man of Indian industry, has decided to pass on the jewel in his crown to his grandson.

Birla said today that he planned to hand over the reins at Kesoram Industries, the flagship company of his Rs 8,000-crore empire, to Kumar Mangalam Birla.

The statement marks a departure from the succession plan that the 87-year-old patriarch had articulated in the past.

Under the old plan, Century Textiles and Century Enka were to go to grandson Kumar Mangalam who heads the AV Birla Group.

Two daughters — Jayshree Mohta and Manjushree Khaitan — were supposed to get control of Jay Shree Tea and Kesoram, respectively.

But BK Babu, as he is affectionately called, today said Kumar would manage all his companies. He then clarified that his grandson would pick up the reins of diversified Kesoram, Century Textiles and Century Enka, while Jayshree would get Jay Shree Tea.

Asked what he intended to give younger daughter Manjushree, Birla said: “She will get something.” Later, he added she would be associated with Kesoram even as Kumar would run it in future.

Manjushree and Jayshree joined the boards of Kesoram and Jay Shree Tea, respectively in 2001.

Speaking on the sidelines of Century Enka’s annual general meeting in Calcutta, Birla reiterated his wish to hand over the baton to the next generation whenever it was ready to take on the responsibility.

“Kumar is so busy with his companies that it is impossible for him to attend board meetings in Calcutta. So, he said that I should continue as long as I can. I will turn 87 this year. I may continue for another 34 years and then Kumar will take over,” he joked.

Both Kesoram and Century Enka are located in the city and, thus, the board meetings take place here. Last year, Kumar joined the board of Century Textiles, which has its headquarters in Mumbai.

Birla did not directly respond to a question on why he changed the succession plan but confirmed there was a change of plans.

“I had thought of it, but there was no definite plan,” Birla said when reporters reminded him that he had said in the past that Manjushree would head Kesoram.

Insiders in the family say B.K. Birla has huge faith in the abilities of Kumar and he wants the flagship of the group to go the best. “I am proud to have a grandson like Kumar,” Birla said.

With the enunciation of a new succession plan, corporate observers say the fate of two other group companies — Mangalam Cement and ECE Industries — are yet to be decided.

Vidula Jalan, daughter of Manjushree, is tipped to take on the responsibility of Mangalam Timber Products Ltd.

Manjushree also heads the city-based BPO unit Manjushree Infotech.

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