Ambani rivalry spills over at shareholder meeting
Anil Ambani on Tuesday used an annual shareholders’ meeting to lay into his older brother and the government for good measure, over the issue of gas pricing which is at the heart of the most recent spat between the fighting Ambani brothers.
Anil charged Reliance Industries, India’s top private-sector conglomerate run by estranged brother Mukesh, had used every trick in the book, and some outside the book, to feed its “greed”, and was firing from the shoulder of the oil ministry that he claimed was being “partisan”.
The 90-minute diatribe livened up what threatened to be an otherwise staid shareholders’ meeting, with accusations, pleas, emotions, tears and the inevitable invocations of the father, founder Dhirubhai Ambani, whose death helped bring the feud between the two brothers out in the open. All peppered with energetic cries of support from shareholders.
The dispute next comes up for hearing at the Supreme Court on Sept. 1.
Leaving aside the legal issues, was it right for Anil to have used a shareholders’ meeting to wash the family’s dirty linens and take potshots at the government? Certainly, there are implications for the company’s earnings and therefore shareholder value. But does that make it OK to discuss a matter that is sub-judice?
The two brothers have fought before in the full glare of the media spotlight, and are quite likely to do so again. Anil has already given interviews to all major newspapers stating his stand, signalling that the gloves are off in this stage of the Ambani battle.
Is this the start of a new season for shareholders’ meetings? We’ve often bemoaned the lack of shareholder activism in India, but clearly a big family business like the Ambani’s thinks nothing of using a shareholder meeting to air grievances against a sibling.
Or is this just another example of India’s new-found affinity for voicing one’s thoughts in public? The parliament has debated whether this phenomenon – as seen in the TV show Sach ka Saamna – is against our culture, but is Anil’s outburst a sign that in corporate India at least, talking about your feelings, in front of shareholders and on TV, is acceptable?