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File photo:  Hinduja Brothers. (AFP)
File photo: Hinduja Brothers. (AFP)

Hinduja brothers spar over control of Geneva-based bank

  • The Hinduja group, with revenues in excess of $50 billion, was founded by their father P.D. Hinduja in 1914 in India but later shifted its main operations to Iran and then to the UK
  • The family is worth an estimated $11.2 billion and is Britain’s second wealthiest

Fissures have emerged in the Hinduja family—tightly knit and one of the world’s richest—with three of the four brothers on Wednesday opposing the eldest’s move to take control of the Geneva-based Hinduja Bank.

The tussle came to light on Tuesday when a UK court allowed Srichand P. Hinduja, at 84the patriarch of the London-based family, to break away from the group and take control of the Hinduja Bank, the group’s key overseas financial arm.

On Wednesday, the three younger brothers—Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok Hinduja—said Srichand P. Hinduja (also known as SP) was suffering from a form of dementia and that his failing health was one the key reasons for the split.

The Hinduja group, with revenues in excess of $50 billion, was founded by their father P.D. Hinduja in 1914 in India but later shifted its main operations to Iran and then to the UK, where most of the family lives. Only Ashok Hinduja and his family live in Mumbai.

The Hinduja family tree
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The Hinduja family tree

The three brothers said it was “apparent from the judgement of the high court in England that Mr. S.P. Hinduja’s health has been deteriorating for a number of years suffering from Lewy Body disease, which is a form of dementia".

“Vinoo, his younger daughter, acting as his Litigation Friend, is bringing these proceedings on his behalf," the three brothers said in a statement.

“It is very unfortunate that these proceedings are taking place as they go against our founder’s and family’s values and principles that have stood for many decades, especially, ‘everything belongs to everyone and nothing belongs to anyone’," they added.

“We intend to defend the claim to uphold these dearly held family values."

In the order, the London judge ruled against the three younger brothers, stating that an informal family pact cited by them does not have a legal bearing in the ownership of Hinduja Bank, which is currently controlled by S.P. Hinduja.

At the centre of the dispute is a 2014 letter signed by the four brothers saying the assets held by one brother belong to all, and that each man will appoint the others as their executors, Bloomberg reported. SP and Vinoo Hinduja went to court stating that the letter should have “no legal effect" and cannot be used as a Will.

“She (Vinoo) said that Srichand had insisted as early as 2016 that the July letter doesn’t reflect his wishes and that the family’s assets should be separated," according to the Bloomberg report.

The three brothers maintained that the differences with S.P. Hinduja will have no impact on the business operations of the group spanning sectors such banking, automobiles, media, healthcare and technology services.

The family is worth an estimated $11.2 billion and is Britain’s second wealthiest.

While the four brothers have been inseparable for their entire work life so far, people close to the family said some members of the third generation of Hindujas are inclined to go their separate ways.

According to legal experts, the best approach for the family would be to settle the differences amicably.

“It always helps to have a tiered approach to resolve disputes, such as the family elders trying to resolve issues first, followed by mediation, and finally, if things cannot be fixed, then arbitration. That is preferred over litigation," said Rishabh Shroff, partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.

Among the third generation of the family Vinoo, Sanjay, Dheeraj, Ajay, Ramkrishan (Remi) and Shom Hinduja are involved with the group, while Shanu, Ritu, Ambika and Satya Hinduja are not engaged in the business.

Jayshree P. Upadhyay contributed to this story.

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