Home / Companies / People /  Jeh Wadia steps down from roles at more Wadia firms

Jehangir Wadia, the younger son of Wadia Group patriarch Nusli Wadia, has quit the boards of Britannia Industries Ltd and Bombay Burmah Trading Corp., stepping down from responsibilities at all listed businesses of the $15 billion Wadia Group.

In March, he resigned as managing director at family controlled airline Go First (then Go Airlines) and Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The departure of the 48-year-old business executive once presumed to be Nusli Wadia’s successor from all the marquee publicly traded companies of the group is unexplained. Jeh Wadia, as well as a spokesperson for Wadia Group and Nusli Wadia, did not respond to questions from Mint.

In its latest annual report released last week, Britannia said Jeh did not offer himself for reappointment to the board.

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“Mr. Jehangir N. Wadia, non-executive director, who retires by rotation at the ensuing AGM (annual general meeting) in terms of Section 152 of the Companies Act, 2013, has not offered himself for reappointment. The board of directors at their meeting held on 30 July 2021 resolved not to fill the resulting vacancy, and the same is placed before the members at the ensuing AGM for their approval," the annual report said.

The latest annual report of Bombay Burmah carries an identical notice, and the resolution will be brought before its shareholders at its annual meeting.

Bombay Burmah was the company Jeh joined when he entered the family business in July 2001. He was inducted into the board of Britannia in September 2005. National Peroxide is the fourth listed firm of the Wadia Group, but Jeh was also not on the board of the specialty chemical firm.

While neither Wadia nor the group has commented on the development, two people aware of developments said the departure is connected to differences with father, Nusli Wadia.

Signs of strain in familial ties came in May, when Go First, in its draft share sale documents ahead of an initial public offering, said it was exploring legal action against Jeh Wadia, who was the company’s managing director till March, over ownership of the Go Air brand name and other such assets. Jeh Wadia owns the Go Air brand name through a privately held firm, and the company’s IPO prospectus said he has made ownership claims over the brand and related trademarks.

When Jeh Wadia quit Go Air and Bombay Dyeing in March, the group said it was part of a move to hand over control to professional executives.

A statement from the airline said: “Among other initiatives, a key element of this plan, forged over weeks of discussions and consultation, was to strengthen the management of the company by bringing on-board proven industry professionals, a strategy that has worked well for the group in its other ventures including Britannia. Consequently, Jeh Wadia, part of the promoter family, stepped down from his position of managing director while continuing as promoter," it said.

Bombay Dyeing made an identical statement in a regulatory filing. “In keeping with the objective of professionalization of the management, Jeh Wadia, MD of Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Co. Ltd, has stepped down and will not be renewing his contract... which has expired on 31 March 2021."

However, elder brother Ness, 50, continues to be the managing director of Bombay Burmah and chairman of National Peroxide. Ness is also a board member at Bombay Dyeing, Britannia, and Go First. Markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) placed the airline’s proposed IPO on hold in June without assigning reasons.

The Wadia group is one of India’s most storied conglomerates, with a presence in packaged consumer goods, textiles, chemicals and food processing. Britannia and Bombay Dyeing are more than a century old. Bombay Burmah is 158 years old.

The whiff of differences at the firm comes about half a century after Nusli Wadia battled his father, Neville Wadia, over the latter’s decision to sell Bombay Dyeing to R.P. Goenka. In 1971, Nusli thwarted the deal by enlisting support from the rest of the family, employees and J.R.D. Tata. If Jeh Wadia’s departure from the boards is indeed linked to differences with his father, history would be repeating itself at the conglomerate that traces its origins back to 1736.

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