| Kumar: Tough act to follow
Mumbai, June 18: The search for R. K. Krishna Kumarís successor as managing director of Indian Hotels, the Tatasí hotel chain, has led to three candidates.
Kumar will step down on July 17, in line with groupís retirement policy, after a 39-year stint with the Tatas.
Sources say a successor will be announced on Thursday, when the Indian Hotelsí board meets to review the annual financial results. Kumar, a member on Tata Sons board, is likely to continue as chairman of Tetley, and as the non-executive vice-chairman of Tata Tea. There is a probability that he will take on non-executive functions even in the case of Indian Hotels.
Ahead in the fray to don Kumarís mantle at Indian Hotels are executive directors Raymond Bickson and Zubin Dubash
Sources say Bickson, a recent recruit with wide experience in managing a hotel chain with global dimensions, is the favourite. He was appointed chief operating officer in December last and reports directly to Kumar.
S. Ramakrishnan, chairman of Tata Teleservices, could emerge as the dark horse in the race, sources say. However, some feel he is unlikely to be picked to run a hotel chain at a time when the Tatasí telecom ventures are acquiring the critical mass to take on rivals. His name has figured merely because he has spent some years with the hospitality firm, sources said.
Bickson is seen as an odds-on favourite, also because Indian Hotels wants to pursue its long nurtured vision of taking the Taj brand-name abroad, a quest that could mean snapping up chains in foreign countries.
The company wants to buy hotel chains to increase its presence in the US, the UK and west Europe ó its key source markets. ďWe would like to do another Tetley with Indian Hotels,Ē Kumar was quoted as having said last year.
Bickson is ideally placed to assume Kumarís role as he has been general manager of New Yorkís The Mark, formerly the New York flagship of The Rafael Group Hotels and now owned by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
He has extensive language and managerial and other skills, a result of the thirty years he spent working for luxury hotels throughout Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. The Tatas have, however, refused to be drawn on the issue of Kumarís successor.