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Countdown begins for Tata shift

Mumbai, Dec. 18: The Tata Sons board today named Cyrus P. Mistry as the chairman of its board. With this announcement, the $100billion Tata group has started the countdown to the anointment of a new chairman after a little over 21 years.

The formal coronation will take place on December 28 when Ratan Tata retires on turning 75.

Ratan Tata, who remains the chairman of the two Tata trusts that control more than two-thirds of the Tata group’s holding company, has been conferred the honorary title of chairman emeritus. No one has held such a position before because predecessors clung to the top job either very deep into their twilight years or till their death.

Tata Sons was incorporated in 1917 and is the holding company for the group that has more than 85 operational companies. The holding company has 31 subsidiaries within its fold.

The anointment of 44-year-old Cyrus P. Mistry as chairman of the group comes after a year-long tutelage under Ratan Tata during which he has engaged with top politicians, bureaucrats, industry shoguns and the society as a whole in order to come to grips with the onerous responsibilities that come with the position.

Mistry will be the sixth chairman of the group. He will be only the second person without the Tata name to head the group after Sir Nowroji Saklatvala, who was the third chairman between 1932 and 1938. Sir Nowroji did have a direct family connection: his mother Virbaiji Tata was the sister of group founder Jamsetji Tata.

Cyrus, on the other hand, has only tenuous family ties: he is the youngest son of Irish-Parsi construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry. His sister Aloo is married to Ratan Tata’s half brother Noel.

Mistry’s grandfather Shapoorji Pallonji first bought shares in Tata Sons in the 1930s, which has now swelled to 18.5 per cent. Cyrus’s father is largest single shareholder in Tata Sons.

Noel was passed over in the race for the top Tata job when the selection committee unanimously picked Cyrus last November. Cyrus has been on the Tata Sons board since 2006.

Last week, the boards of directors of Tata Steel and Tata Motors — the two titans in the Tata group — named Cyrus Mistry as chairman. Last month, software giant TCS named him deputy chairman and said he would take over as chairman on December 28.

Last month, Ratan Tata had stepped down as chairman of Tata Global Beverages, making room for Mistry, who has also been named chairman of Tata Chemicals and inducted into the board of Indian Hotels Company.

 
 
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