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Professor who can pocket Rs 450 crore today

Mumbai, June 5: He is rich and about to become richer, if not the richest “middle-class” professor.

On Friday, when Diageo — the world’s largest spirit manufacturer — makes an open offer to acquire an additional 26 per cent of Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits Limited (USL), a little-known professor in a Mumbai college will get Rs 450 crore if he chooses to sell.

Reticent and media shy, Shivanand Mankekar, who leads a middle-class and largely anonymous life in the crummy by-lanes of Mumbai’s oldest residential area, Matunga, is the largest retail investor of USL.

He is the owner of 1.02 per cent of the company, holding 14.89 lakh shares.

USL, owned by Royal Challengers Bangalore team boss Mallya, manufactures the McDowell’s No. 1 brand of spirits and bottled water. But beleaguered as he is by massive debts, Mallya is selling USL and Diageo, of the UK, is making a $1.9-billion bid to take the company over.

The open offer, Diageo’s second, pegs the per share price of USL at Rs 3,030.

Diageo had earlier come out with an open offer for USL in May 2013 at a price of Rs 1,440 per share. But that offer failed.

Diageo owns 29 per cent of USL. With another 26 per cent of USL shares, it would take its total stake to 55 per cent, reducing Mallya to a minority shareholder but making Mankekar very rich.

Those who have known Mankekar, 62, for years say big gains like the one on his USL shares are not new for the management professor. Mankekar had made a killing and a name on the stock markets in 2002 when he made Rs 100 crore from Pantaloon shares worth Rs 1 crore.

“Over the years he has made big gains, which have hitched up his net worth, but his lifestyle remains the same. He lives in a 1,200sqft, three-bedroom apartment with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and drives a Santro,” said a Bombay Stock Exchange trader who has known Mankekar for a long time.

Not many outside the Indian capital markets know of Mankekar, the only academic among the top 12 private investors in India.

He taught billionaire banker Uday Kotak at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management where he still works. Kotak, too, still considers him his “guru”, says a top official of Kotak Mahindra Bank where Kotak is a 50 per cent owner.

For years, he stayed in a 700sqft apartment in a co-operative housing society in Mahim’s crowded Mogul Lane. Two years back, after his son Kedar’s marriage, he moved with his family to a bigger apartment on Sakharam Keer Road, better known in Mumbai as Skeer Road.

Mankekar, though, is no skeer.

The Urban Dictionary might want to reinvent the meaning of “skeer”, which means “being broke”.

Dalal Street insiders peg Mankekar’s current worth, along with that of his wife Laxmi and son Kedar, at over Rs 1,000 crore post the Diageo open offer.

Till last month, when his name was splashed in the media after Diageo made the second open offer that will open on Friday, Mankekar’s neighbours at Matoshree Pearl — the Skeer Road multi-rise where he now lives — had no inkling of his worth.

“All we knew is that Mankekar teaches financial management and is a Sai Baba devotee. He is social and affable. His son owns a firm called Om Kedar Securities and also teaches management at Matunga’s Wellingkar institute,” says a neighbour.

A corporate honcho, who was the professor’s batchmate at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute from where both passed out in 1975, describes Mankekar as “reticent and shy, not the brightest of the class”.

“He dropped out of our radar after college. Next I know, he is a hot-shot investor,” he says.

The Dalal street trader who has worked with Mankekar for a long time says that apart from teaching, the professor also ran a coaching academy and teacher training workshops. “He started off with small investments and gradually worked his way up after big gains he made with Pantaloons. It built his confidence.”

So much so that when the markets crashed wildly in May-June 2006, Mankekar was among the few investors who did not panic and held on to their stocks.

“He has made his money from abrupt big hits. It has not always worked. He suffered heavily when the Wockhardt shares slumped. But, as a rule, whenever a stock starts performing well, he starts buying. That is his style,” says Calcutta-based investment strategist Basant Maheshwari, who has followed Mankekar’s market footprint over the years.

Market regulars on Dalal Street say his knowledge base as a management professor makes him a savvy investor.

If Mankekar is India’s John Maynard Keynes, the legendary British economist who made substantial gains from his Wall Street investment, he is yet to propound his philosophy. But simple living and high earnings on the bourses is clearly his chosen path.

“I am a middle-class man and I am comfortable in my ordinary life. I do not like to interact with the media,” Mankekar told The Telegraph on Wednesday before quietly putting the phone down.

Mankekar is no Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, India’s celebrity professional investor and cult-hero in the mould of Warren Buffet.

Neither like investor Nimesh Shah — founder of Enam Securities — is he a Charles Munger-like recluse.

“He is below the public radar, almost the Everyman on Dalal Street. It is only his ability to pick the right stocks and stay on with them through thick and thin that has turned his day job as an academic into a hobby and a passing fancy with stocks into a full-fledged business,” says the CEO of a Mumbai-based stock-broking firm who works closely with Kedar’s company.

“The investments of the Mankekar family are in the name of Mankekar, his wife Laxmi and his son Kedar. Some investments are made in the name of Om Kedar Investments.”

A staffer at Om Kedar says the Mankekars believe in a concentrated portfolio with only a few high-performance stocks. “They don’t look for low-priced stocks. Only dazzling performers matter and we go the extra mile in terms of paying big prices for them,” she says. “We follow a stock’s performance, then hone in on it and pay up whatever the price. From time to time, we bin the laggards in our portfolio.”

This ability to hold on to his nerve when the markets had crashed in a free-fall in 2006 is what got Mankekar noticed as an investor to watch out for.

On Friday, as Diageo hits the markets with its offer of Rs 3,030 for a stock Mankekar had picked up for about Rs 900 a few years back, many will be watching to see if the professor makes a killing. Or whether he holds out in search of a bigger bargain.

“It is not just the money,” says the BSE source. “It is the play at the markets that drives Mankekar.”