Live Mint | 14 Aug 2020
Mukesh Ambani, the world’s fourth-richest man, is setting up a ‘family council’ to implement a collective governance structure to manage the family’s sprawling business empire as part of the group’s succession-planning process, two people directly aware of the discussions said.
The council will provide equal representation to all family members, including the three Ambani siblings—Akash, Isha and Anant—who are expected to take over the reins of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the people said, seeking anonymity as the talks are private.
“The move is part of succession planning of Reliance and will include an adult member of the family, the three children, and possibly external members who will act as mentors and advisors,” said one of the two people. “The council will play an important role in decision making at RIL. This forum will provide representation to each branch in the agreed manner and help take critical decisions that relate to the family or its businesses.”
Ambani, 63, aims to complete the succession planning process by the end of next year, the person added.
By setting up the council, Ambani, now worth more than $80 billion, wants to ensure that the family has a shared vision of RIL’s future, and members have a common forum where conflicts, if any, can be resolved when the next generation takes over the reins of the company. Ambani is probably drawing some lessons from his rivalry with his brother after the death of their father, Dhirubhai, who founded RIL in 1973. The Ambani brothers eventually split their father’s businesses.
“The proposed family council, which will emulate other wealthy families, especially multigenerational families with controlling interests in diversified businesses, will also act as an executive body to coordinate among the family members on various matters. It is expected that the three Ambani siblings will eventually head separate verticals within RIL such as retail, digital and energy. A family council will ensure synergies are maintained,” said the second person cited above.
RIL did not respond to emailed queries sent on Thursday till the time of going to press.
In October 2014, Akash and Isha Ambani joined the boards of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd as directors. Anant, the youngest sibling, was appointed to the board of Jio Platforms as an additional director in March. Akash and Isha are also on the board of Jio Platforms. Isha Ambani is also a director at Reliance Foundation Institution of Education and Research, which is setting up the Jio Institute. While Akash and Anant graduated from Brown University in the US, Isha has majored in psychology and South Asian studies from Yale University.
In a series of rejigs in recent years, Mukesh Ambani, his wife Nita, and the three children have rearranged their shareholdings in RIL by acquiring shares from each other. In March, promoters along with two group firms—Tattvam Enterprises LLP and Samarjit Enterprises LLP—acquired 3.2% shares of RIL from Devarshi Commercials LLP, another group entity.
“The transaction is part of a restructuring of promoter group holding by inter-se transfer among the persons belonging to promoter and promoter group,” RIL had told exchanges in a filing. Mint had reported that each member of the Ambani family would hold an equal number of shares in RIL after the transaction.
“Family council is like a melting pot where ideas and recommendations of family members melt and help them in arriving at a decision in an informed and democratic way where transparency and participation plays an important role,” said Rajesh Narain Gupta, managing partner at law firm SNG and Partners.