SALE OF ASSETS, FALLING REVENUE WORRIED TATA TRUSTS, OLD TIMERS

NEW DELHI (TIP): The Tata Trusts were concerned over the falling revenues of the group since Cyrus Mistry took over the reins of the company and there was a growing divergence over values and ethics, people close to the Tata Group have revealed in interviews to a television channel.

A day after the dramatic removal of Mistry, at least three people close to the Tata Group have spoken about the possible reasons for the dismissal of the former Tata Sons chairman.

“Since Cyrus took over, there’s no formal link between trusts and Tata Group. The trusts are dependent for philanthropic activities on dividends on shares we hold. The performance of Tata Sons was becoming more and more dependent on just 2 cos — TCS & JLR,” V R Mehta, trustee at the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, was quoted as saying by NDTV.

“The trusts were concerned about falling revenue (since Mistry took over) — funds for charitable work were drying up. There’s been divergence since Mistry took over on values and ethics. The trusts’ concerns were a major factor in Cyrus’ removal. Probably, no choices were left,” Mehta was quoted as saying.

Noted lawyer Harish Salve, who is a legal expert for the salt-to-software group, told NDTV that the “group felt its formidable international reputation was being compromised”. “I’m sure all the people concerned here know they are not fighting for a piece of land or property,” Salve was quoted as saying by the TV channel.

He also said Mistry’s move to sell group assets to pare debt was also a factor which had worried Tata Group old timers. “Tata has a reputation for weathering storms,” Salve was quoted as saying by NDTV. He said Tata’s approach had been not to “ditch assets in difficult times….try to fix it before you dismantle”.

Salve told the channel that the move to sell Tata Steel’s assets in UK was seen as reversing the acquisitions undertaken by Ratan Tata because when the group acquired those assets, “it was not just buying a business, it was buying into an institution”.

The eminent lawyer said the decision to dismiss Mistry may not have been sudden and admitted that it had created some “bad blood”. “When it comes to governance of an institution, sometimes things don’t go right, there is hurt, there is disappointment, sometimes there is also a sense of humiliation,” Salve was quoted as saying by NDTV.

Another eminent lawyer, Mohan Parasaran, who has advised the Tata Group on the Mistry issue, said Ratan Tata had met Mistry before the board meeting on Monday and had asked him to quit. “I was approached a month back and gave an opinion to them on this issue. I said the board was competent to appoint chairman following their articles of association. They will need to appoint a selection committee. But there’s no need of a selection committee for the removal. For that, a majority of directors is needed,” Parasaran was quoted as saying.

“I was told that Ratan Tata and a board member came all the way from the US (Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria) to meet Cyrus to persuade him to step down. Mistry had his own views and refused — he is entitled to his views.”