Both — Ratan Naval Tata or RNT to friends and peers, and his half-brother Noel Naval Tata — belong to the same family, the House of the Tatas. Both are introvert and extremely reclusive. And both have cut their teeth in as young executives and risen through the ranks.
Yet the five member search committee sprang a surprise by choosing 43-year-old Cyrus P Mistry, Noel’s brother-in-law as Rata Tata’s heir designate.
Insiders to the house of Tatas say Noel was always the outsider. A top-ranking executive with a prominent Tata company back in 2006 had rubbished any speculation of Noel taking over from RNT.
Though Noel has been around since 1997, he was not on the radar even when he became a director at Titan and Voltas in 2003. It was only in 2008 that this executive heard his name uttered for the first time in the board rooms of the Bombay House. And that name stayed on until on Wednesday, Mistry, Noel’s brother-in-law, was announced to succeed RNT.
Noel, 54, is married to Aloo Mistry, daughter of Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, the single largest shareholder in Tata Sons outside of the trusts. What has come as a surprise is that though he himself chooses to stay in the background, Noel’s career graph within the group has soared, and therefore was the heir-apparent.
He began his career with Tata International, when he took over as the managing director of the company along with being appointed as the chairman of Tata Investments in June last year.
He also holds the position of non-executive vice-chairman at Trent and remains on the boards of group companies Titan and Voltas.
“Look at the constitution of the selection panel. It has at least two candidates who may have had hidden ambitions of becoming chairman themselves,” said a prominent industry leader who did not wish to be identified.