Ambani rivalry spills over at shareholder meeting

July 30, 2009

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?

11 comments

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Anil has always been adept at seeking sympathy through the media. Remember the 2005 board meeting that he walked out of and vented his anger with the Reliance board to cameramen waiting outside. His preoccupation with the entertainment world seems to be spilling over to his business life as well!

Posted by Ramya | Report as abusive

Well what is so sacro sanct about a shareholders meeting after all.Its all a “family” affair-people who have invested in a company and thus have a right to know whats going on
Lots of people say Anit seeks symathy,he is a showbiz guy,likes to project himself as the victim etc but I feel there’s nothing wrong in voicing his anger at his estranged brother at his OWN company’s meeting-its not as if he is shouting around in the RIL shareholder’s meet for God’ sake !!
Anyways i think HE is the VICTIM and not the aggressor in this battle

Posted by vikaskukreja | Report as abusive

The performance in was riveting full with slogans, phrases and even tears. No it was not a theatre performance or a Bollywood movie but a routine AGM speech which turned out to be more entertaining than any theatrics.

Anil Ambani, in unlike Ambani style, decided to cry foul and slammed his brother, the Petroleum Ministry, the Government Advocate while trying to justify his case.

Posted by Raju | Report as abusive

Dear
In each and every country gas or petroleum products are considered as national wealth. It doesn’t matter who found it or is digging it.

Everywhere in world petroleum companies just have to operate on fixed margins decided by government

It appears in INDIA petroleum products on the land of INDIA is party for rich people

May be that is just relfection of age old Indian Government motto of making rich richer and poor poorer though slogans can be anything

The Reliance should be given fix % only and rest should go to government national fund

But sure nobody would do it in corrupt INDIA

Posted by A citizen | Report as abusive

Victim or agrressor, Mukesh comes across as more mature, whereas Anil just looks like a whiner — where would you put you money?
Of course he can use an AGM to update shareholders on developments in what is a critical case for the company, but quoting newspaper reports (whose accuracy is already in question) and words like “corporate greed” do not inspire confidence.
These are not the words of a leader. they are the words of an emotional fool. And you know what they say about a fool and his money.

Posted by Ramya | Report as abusive

i think Anil is Victim of the conspiracy done by Mukesh and his sympthisers in Goverment

Posted by Dhanil | Report as abusive

Mukesh does come across as mature bcoz he has all the backing.
according to most media items, it was Mukesh who did not budge an inch from his stand of not giving up even a miniscule share of RIL to his younger brother during the (in)famous, family MoU leaving Anil to restart a group from start-beginning from a new logo for his group.
It wouldnt have been easy for Anil to do this and I feel he is definitely not an emotional fool-not when u run a 40000 cr business house-its just that he is having to create more noise bcoz he has to snatch his legi share from RIL-and we all know the man in the comfort zone always has the upper hand

Posted by vikaskukreja | Report as abusive

RNRL GDR which it had filed the content reveals that rnrl knew that its govt of india which is going to fix the price of gas and they have clearly mentioned in gdr
gas price subject to govt aproval then why this antics
in public and court this guy anil simply wasting his time
and making fun of rnrl sharholder. its india loot evrywhich way you like indian public saab kuch manta hai.

Posted by James Watt | Report as abusive

While of ofcourse both brothers by way of their family connections do have access to political backing, I think that Anil is right to make all elements of this dispute public after all at the end of the day, this is about national assets which will affect the Indian consumer.

Imagine, if Mukesh is allowed to renege on this contract, on the backing by minister Murli Deora, he can artificially lower the gas supply hence dictate the price to Indian consumers and make crores of profit.

Now yesterday we read that CPI which only has 4 MPs in the current Lok Sabha, has also demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to clarify on supply of gas and its price from RIL-operated fields and the “abnormal tax concessions” given to the company in the 2009-10 General Budget.

Let the truth be aired in front of the Indian audiences!

It is not understood why a Govt. should interfere when the contract is to supply at a lower price? Govt. should interfere only when like any other commodity is being supplied at an abnormal price to the consumer . A lower priced raw material is always good to get a cheaper finished goods. It is very clear Govt saves more subsidy at lower price. Then what interest does the Govt. is having ?

Posted by M.V.K. Rao | Report as abusive

It is true that Gas is a Nation’s property… but most in India would have preferred the government to be supportive of lower gas prices rather than higher prices and the is not in any way adding to its credibility

Posted by Nationalist | Report as abusive