JN Sapru, an officer and a gentleman

Read more below

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 10.05.07

Jagdish Narain Sapru, former ITC chairman, passed away in Calcutta yesterday. He was 74.

Sapru is survived by wife Gita and two sons, Rakesh and Nirukt. Sapru, born in Allahabad to a Kashmiri Pandit family in 1933, made Calcutta his home in the mid 60s while working for ITC.

He joined ITC (then Imperial Tobacco Company) as sales ‘pupil’ in 1955, joined the board in 1974 and became chairman in 1983. He retired from the company in 1991.

Sapru was currently the chairman of BOC India and DIC India (formerly Coates of India). He was also on the boards of several companies.

He was the steward of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club till November 2006. He had also served as chairman of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and as governor on the board of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. He was a keen golfer too.

Sapru’s death came as a shock to the family. “He had a surgery a few months back but was recovering well. He had a flu a couple of days back,” Nirukt Sapru told The Telegraph.

Both Nirukt and Rakesh live outside Calcutta. They rushed home today after receiving the news. Sapru’s wife Gita was by his side when he breathed his last at his residence last night.

Sapru, a thorough professional at the helm of a diversified company like ITC, was liked by all for his amiable disposition.

“He was a very jovial man. His face had an ever-present smile and that distinctive white moustache. He had a quaint sense of humour,” said Aloke Mookherjea, former director of ABB India and former president of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).

BCCI secretary Khokon Mukherjee, who had worked under Sapru at ITC, has fond memories of him.

“He spent the early part of his career in barefoot marketing, before rising to the rank of the director and chairman. An officer and a gentleman — the title of the documentary on Sapru made when he retired from ITC — describes him perfectly,” Mukherjee said.

Sapru carried forward the diversification process of ITC, which was initiated by his predecessor A.N. Haksar. During his chairmanship, ITC ventured into financial services, edible oil and seeds and international trade.