Tata, Cyrus Mistry put PR teams in place for a long battle

Tata Sons PR team includes Edelman-Rediffusion, Suhel Seth, and Avian Media; Cyrus Mistry is currently making do with a team from Linopinion


Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of Tata Sons. Photo: PTI
Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of Tata Sons. Photo: PTI

New Delhi/Mumbai: The Tata group and its former chairman Cyrus Mistry, who was unseated in a boardroom coup last week, have both put together communication teams to handle the fallout and prepare for a protracted battle, if there is one.

Mint learns that the Tata Sons team includes Rediffusion’s Diwan Arun Nanda and the team at the Edelman-Rediffusion strategic venture that services the Tata group, Suhel Seth, and Nikhil Khanna and Nitin Mantri of Avian Media. Mistry is currently making do with a team from Linopinion, which has serviced the Shapoorji Pallonji group for years. He is also said to be looking for another agency that can take on the might of the PR team Tata Sons has assembled.

None of the executives involved, or their spokespersons were willing to comment on this on the record.

The Tata Sons effort is being coordinated by Debasis Ray, head of public affairs and group spokesperson at Tata Trusts.

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“If something is required to be publicly stated it will be,” he responded when asked about the Tata Sons PR team and strategy.

To be sure, the Edelman-Rediffusion team services several Tata group companies and Avian, an aviation specialist, looks after Vistara.

Suhel Seth who runs reputation management firm Counselage is helping Ratan Tata in his personal capacity since he’s had a working relationship with him since 1990. Seth is advising the group on its overarching strategy to deal with the current crisis. He will focus on the brand, the trust in and the reputation of one of India’s largest business groups, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified. “The focus will be on setting the record straight because there are issues of corporate governance involved. Secondly, the focus will be to make sure the legacy of the House of Tatas is maintained,” this person added.

In an email to the board of Tata Sons after he was removed as chairman, Mistry levelled several allegations against the group and some of its companies.

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The Tata group response, though, will be “measured” and stay away from “mudslinging” a second person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. This person, who handles PR for a Tata company said “it is unlikely that the group will employ a very aggressive media strategy at this point.”

A Linopinion spokesperson declined to comment.

The two sides have also lined up law firms and senior advocates in case the boardroom battle spills into the courts. According to legal news website Bar & Bench, the Tata group has hired Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) and Karanjawala & Co. The team from the former includes partners Shuva Mandal and Ameya Gokhale while the Karanjawala team includes the Managing Partner Raian Karanjawala, Partner Ruby Singh Ahuja and Tahira Karanjawala.

A spokesperson for SAM declined to comment while Karanjawala & Co.’s managing partner Raian Karanjawala confirmed that his firm is advising the Tatas.

Other senior lawyers advising the Tata group include Harish Salve and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, reported Bar & Bench.

Cyrus Mistry, who is the son-in-law of Bombay high court senior advocate Iqbal Chagla, has hired Desai & Diwanji, said a person familiar with the development who asked not to be identified. A spokesperson for the law firm declined to comment.

Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, meanwhile, confirmed that he is advising Cyrus Mistry.

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