Home >companies >people >Tata Motors MD Karl Slym may have committed suicide: Bangkok police

Mumbai/Bangkok: Tata Motors Ltd may appoint former managing director (MD) and current vice-chairman Ravi Kant as interim MD till the company finds a replacement for Karl Slym, according to two people familiar with the matter. An executive committee meeting currently under way will make an announcement by the end of the day, said one of the two. Neither wanted to be identified.

Slym, MD of Tata Motors, died after falling from a hotel room in Bangkok in what police said on Monday could be possible suicide.

Shares of Tata Motors closed 6.13% lower at 347.80 apiece on BSE on Monday while the benchmark Sensex fell 2.02%, or 426.11 points, to 20,707.45.

Slym, 51, had attended a board meeting of Tata’s Thailand unit in the Thai capital and was staying with his wife in a room on the 22nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel. Hotel staff found his body on Sunday on the fourth floor, which juts out above the lower floors.

“We didn’t find any sign of a struggle," said police lieutenant Somyot Boonyakaew, who is heading the investigation. “We found a window open. The window was very small so it was not possible that he would have slipped. He would have had to climb through the window to fall out because he was a big man. From my initial investigation, we believe he jumped."

The police found a three-page note, written in English, which they were translating into Thai. An autopsy on Slym’s body was to begin on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Tata Motors declined to comment on the possible cause of Slym’s death.

Kant, who has been with the company since February 1999, joined Tata Motors as senior vice-president (commercial vehicles) and was inducted on the board as an executive director in July 2000. He was named MD in July 2005. On retiring from his executive position on 1 June 2009, he was nominated vice-chairman.

Slym, a British national, was hired in 2012 to revive Tata Motors’ flagging sales and market share in India.

“His death comes at a time when the company seems to be close to turning the corner," said Anil Sharma, an analyst with researchers IHS Automotive. “It comes before his efforts bear fruit. We should be able to see the results in a year or two."

Tata Motors recently introduced a new petrol engine for its passenger vehicles and was planning to launch a hatchback and a compact sedan this year, the first all-new Tata-branded passenger vehicles since 2010.

Slym led the auto maker’s operations in India and international markets, including South Korea, Thailand and South Africa, but he did not look after the Jaguar and Land Rover luxury unit that Tata Motors acquired in 2008.

The Thai police said they were called to the Shangri-La hotel around 7.45am on Sunday after staff found Slym’s body. They woke up Slym’s wife, who looked shocked when she was told what had happened to her husband.

Before joining Tata Motors, Slym was executive vice-president of SGMW Motors, China, a General Motors Co. joint venture. Before that, he headed General Motors in India.

Mint’s Ami Shah contributed to this story.

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