Home / Companies / People /  Car crash kills Mistry, Tata Group’s ex-chief

MUMBAI : The death of Cyrus Pallonji Mistry, former chairman of Tata Sons and managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji (SP) Group, leaves behind a massive leadership vacuum at the group, one of India’s oldest, with interests ranging from engineering services to real estate to infrastructure.

Cyrus, 54, died in a car crash on Sunday afternoon on his way back to Mumbai from Udvada, a town in the Valsad district of Gujarat where a Zoroastrian temple is located. There were three others in the car, the renowned Mumbai gynaecologist Dr Anahita Pandole, her husband Darius, managing director and chief executive of JM Financial Private Equity, and his brother, Jehangir, who also succumbed to his injuries

Cyrus Mistry dies in car crash
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Cyrus Mistry dies in car crash

Dr Pandole was behind the wheel of the Mercedes GLC 220 D, registered in the name of JM Financial Ltd, with her husband sitting next to her, while Cyrus and Jehangir, a director at the London office of KPMG Global Strategy Group, were seated behind. Both men sitting at the back died.

Indian roads had the deadliest year, with fatalities rising to a record 155,0000 in 2021, an average of 18 every hour, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data. Traffic deaths have increased in the past year because of speeding, rash driving and texting, making Indian roads one of the most dangerous in the world. Cyrus is survived by his wife Rohiqa Chagla, granddaughter of renowned jurist M.C. Chagla, and two sons, Firoz and Zahan.

What we know so far
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What we know so far

Cyrus was widely seen as the likely successor of Pallonji Mistry, his illustrious father, who died in June at the age of 93. However, the group had not made a formal announcement about the succession.

Cyrus, who left control of SP Group in 2012 to his elder brother Shapoor after his appointment as Tata Sons chairman, rejoined the group after he was ousted. He unsuccessfully fought a long-drawn legal battle to reinstate himself as chairman of the Tata group holding firm. Since his return to SP Group, Cyrus led the group’s day-to-day operations, which had fallen into disarray during his years of absence. However, Cyrus focused his energies on managing the financial affairs of SP Group, including its first-ever loan defaults.

Cyrus steadied the ship by monetizing the group’s assets to mobilize funds and meet its obligations to lenders. He led the sale of stakes in Sterling & Wilson Renewable Energy Ltd and Eureka Forbes Ltd. The group sold a 40% stake in Sterling & Wilson Renewable to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd, while private equity fund Advent International acquired Eureka Forbes. Under his leadership, the group emerged from the 12,450 crore one-time resolution plan implemented by its lenders. The group’s fortunes, however, continue to be closely linked to Tata Sons, in which its 18.4% stake is roughly valued at around $56 billion.

Condolences poured in from far and wide as soon as the news of the tragedy broke. Among the first to offer tributes was current Tata group chairperson N. Chandrasekaran. “I am deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely demise of Mr. Cyrus Mistry. He had a passion for life, and it is really tragic that he passed away at such a young age. My deepest condolences and prayers for his family in these difficult times," Chandrasekaran said in a statement on Sunday.

Mistry first joined Tata Sons’ board in 2006. In 2011, he was made deputy chairman of Tata Sons in a step that Ratan Tata had then said was a “good and far-sighted one". He took over the baton from Tata in 2012 as chairman of Tata Sons, but within four years, this decision turned Bombay House—the headquarters of Tata Sons, the epicentre of a long, drawn-out war.

“The thing I will remember most about Cyrus is what a wonderful human being he was. His charm, humility, integrity and kindness. Combine that with his smarts and commitment to think deeply about business and what makes different industries tick. There lies why no one really personally attacked him after his fallout with the Tata group. You could not help but like Cyrus," said Nirmalya Kumar, Lee Kong Chian professor of marketing at Singapore Management University. Kumar was a member of the group executive council (GEC) under Mistry at Tata Sons, a top decision-making body that Mistry had created to steer the Tata group.

Mukund Rajan, a former Tata Brand Custodian and member of the GEC, said his death was an “untimely loss for the Indian corporate sector, as there was so much more that Cyrus could have contributed in the decades ahead".

Swaraj Singh Dhanjal of Mint and Vishal Rajemahadik of Hindustan Times contributed to this story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Devina Sengupta

Devina Sengupta reports on the shifts in India Inc’s workplaces, HR policies and writes about the developments at India’s biggest conglomerates. Her stories over the last decade have been picked up and followed by Indian and international news outlets. She joined Mint in 2022 and previously worked with The Economic Times and DNA-Money.
Catch all the Corporate news and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
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