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It’s rare for big companies not to have a dedicated top executive leader and for such responsibility to be vested in its board’s chairperson. Yet, this has been true for Tata Sons Ltd. As the holding company of India’s largest business conglomerate with no operations directly under it, and an unlisted firm too, it strictly speaking does not need a chief executive officer from either a functional or compliance perspective, at least not in the conventional sense. News reports, however, suggest that it’s considering the creation of that post, with someone given charge of guiding the $106 billion Tata empire.

No official word has been put out yet by Bombay House, the Tata headquarters. But supporters of the proposal point to a division of labour between a CEO and chairperson as a widely acknowledged formula for superior corporate governance; this is why role separation has been a priority on the agenda of India’s securities markets regulator. If Tata Sons goes ahead, given its leadership turbulence in recent years, the group must watch out for inevitable perceptions of multiple power centres arising that could confuse the group’s investors about the relative authority at its top rungs.

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