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Perspective

All The King's Men
A closer look at the board members of Tata Sons throws up some interesting nuggets

Krishna Gopalan

The ouster of Cyrus Mistry as Chairman of Tata Sons has been intriguing not just for shock value but also the swiftness of the decision. Apart from Mistry (who refused to participate in the vote), the Tata Sons board has eight members who come from varied backgrounds.

Barring two board members who chose to abstain from voting, the other six decided that Mistry ought to go. Interestingly, three of them had been on the board for just two months.  A closer look throws up some interesting nuggets:

Ishaat Hussain: One among the two who abstained from voting at the board meeting to replace Mistry. Hussain, an old-timer with the group, has been on the Tata Sons board since 1999, before becoming its finance director the following year. A large part of his tenure with the group was spent at Tata Steel. Hussain continues to sit on the board of several Tata Group companies.

Farida Khambata: Like Hussain, she, too, abstained from casting her vote. Khambata was appointed to the board in April 2015 as Tata Sons' first woman director. She also sits on the board of Kotak Mahindra Bank since September, 2014. After a stint with International Finance Corporation, Khambata joined Cartica Capital as an investment strategist. Set up by former IFC executives, the Washington- based Cartica is an investment firm with a focus on emerging markets.

Nitin Nohria: Known primarily for being the current dean of Harvard Business School, he joined the board three years ago. Son of KK Nohria, who was chairman of Crompton Greaves, he has been on the board of Piramal Capital since 2009. His brother-in-law Amit Chandra also sits on the board of Tata Sons. Nohria voted for Mistry’s replacement.

Vijay Singh: The former IAS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre got on the Tata Sons board in mid-2013. Singh, who was Defence Secretary, was the first board appointment after Mistry assumed office as chairman. He quit as a member of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), before accepting this more high-profile board position. Singh voted for Mistry to be replaced.

Ranendra Sen: This former IFS officer joined the Tata Sons board with Khambata. He has earlier been on the board of Tata Motors and the Wadia Group-owned Go Airlines. Sen served as India’s ambassador to the United States between 2004 and 2009. This was after having been an ambassador to Mexico and the Federal Republic of Germany. Sen voted for Mistry to be replaced.

Venu Srinivasan: He joined the board in late August this year as a non-executive director. Srinivasan, who is chairman of TVS Motor, is more known for his association with the two-wheeler business. He is the scion of the south-based TVS Group, which was started by his grandfather. Srinivasan voted for Mistry to be replaced.

Ajay Piramal: An astute businessman in his own right, he joined the Tata Sons board in August this year as non-executive director and voted for Mistry’s exit. In 2010, he sold his formulations business to Abbott Laboratories for a whopping $3.7 billion. Since then, he has invested and exited his holding in Vodafone India apart from striking a deal to acquire a substantial holding in Chennai-based Shriram Capital. He has been in the news lately due to  Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs' decision to invest in Piramal Capital.

Amit Chandra: After cutting his teeth in investment banking, he quit DSP Merrill Lynch to join Bain Capital in early 2008. His big area of interest has been philanthropy. Chandra serves as a trustee on two Tata trusts. Other boards that he sits on include Genpact and L&T Finance. He was appointed to the board of Tata Investment Corporation, a position he has since quit. In August this year, he was made non-executive director of Tata Sons. Chandra, too, went with the proposal to replace Mistry.

After Mistry’s ouster, Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, and N Chandrasekaran, CEO of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), have been appointed as Additional Directors on the Tata Sons Board.

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