Update: No plans of stepping down from chairmanship of Tata Trusts, says Ratan Tata in statement
Mumbai: Ratan Tata is most likely to step down as chairman of the Tata Trusts, which control 66% in Tata Sons, the holding company of the $108-billion Tata Group. The Trusts have asked an external consultant to advise them on the selection process, which could be completed by the middle of next year.
The next chairman of the Trusts will be an Indian, but not necessarily a Parsi or a member of the Tata family, Tata’s long-time confidant R K Krishna Kumar told TOI on Thursday. The Trusts’ investments in the listed Tata companies alone are worth $41 billion.
The 79-year-old Tata is unlikely to remain a trustee once he hands over the reins to the new chairman. It would bring to an end his decades-long association with India’s largest conglomerate. It would also put to rest charges that he continues to control Tata Sons through his leadership at the Trusts even after leaving Tata Sons and that the next chairman of the holding company would remain in the long shadow of the patriarch.
The move comes even as Tata Sons itself is in the midst of naming a chairman by end-February. When Ratan Tata made way for Cyrus Mistry as chairman of Tata Sons in 2012, he stayed on as head of Tata Trusts. It was the first time in the history of the Tatas that the two positions were uncoupled, all previous Tata Sons chairmen had also headed the Trusts. The reason, according to a long-time insider at Bombay House, is that Mistry isn’t a Tata.
Tata’s close aide and managing trustee R Venkataramanan told TOI that he too was likely to exit the Trusts “in the event of Ratan Tata demitting office”.
Ratan Tata’s confidant R Venkataramanan, who has been the target of several attacks by the Mistry camp, is expected to move overseas and manage Tata’s personal investments, notably the $250 million venture capital fund UCRNT, in association with University of California.
Tata has been an active early-stage investor in several prominent Indian start-ups. A former executive assistant to Tata, ‘Venkat’ rose to become managing trustee three years ago when the Trusts started expanding the scope of their activities from granting funds to building institutions.