Tata Sons interim chairman Ratan N Tata has no immediate plans to step down from the chairmanship of Tata Trusts.
A statement issued by Tata Sons clarified this on Friday, adding that a process was “being put in place for leadership succession in the trusts in the future, to enable an ordered and smooth transition of leadership”.
Tata Trusts is the principal shareholder of the $103-billion Tata Sons, holding two-thirds of its equity.
The clarification came in response to a media report quoting former director RK Krishna Kumar as saying that Tata would resign from chairmanship of the trusts, washing his hands of active involvement in the functioning of the group companies after his term as its interim chairman ends.
Tata Sons has constituted a search panel to appoint a new chairman for the conglomerate by the end of February 2017. Tata would be the interim chairman till then.
The issue assumes significance in the light of ousted group chairman Cyrus Mistry claiming that the charitable organisation – on the strength of its 66% shareholding in Tata Sons – has a crucial say in the operations of group companies.
However, this contention has been strongly denied by Tata Sons and senior executives. There is no question of such interference, Tata Power director Nawshir Mirza said, adding: “They (the trusts) are not on the board of operating companies. How can they decide on individual company issues?”
Mirza said accountability must be paramount in a public charitable organisation like Tata Trusts, which has a very large reach. “The trusts are very widespread in their work. The amount of wealth they create adds up approximately to about `1,000 for each Indian. For an organisation of that size, there has to be a system of accountability,” he added. Tata independent director and Wadia group chairman Nusli Wadia said key group companies are being forced to maintain cross holdings in Tata Sons – a maze of shareholdings in a conglomerate where companies own stakes in each other as well as the parent company – “so Tata Trusts can continue to enjoy their voting rights”.
Wadia also said that strategic Tata Motors presentations were made to the veteran industrialist after he retired as group chairman in 2012. That was done in his capacity as a trustee of Tata Trusts.