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Wednesday, Sep 04, 2002

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Look who turned up for beer party

Boby Kurian

Mr Vijay Mallya


IT turned out to be a party that surprised the host! Last Wednesday, the UB group Chairman, Mr Vijay Mallya, walked late into a Shaw Wallace party to promote Haywards 2000 beer at the J W Marriot hotel in Juhu, Mumbai. Shaw Wallace says no invite had gone to Mr Mallya.

Mr Mallya's dramatic appearance at a party hosted by Shaw Wallace, his bitter rival, has taken the industry by surprise. What set the tongues wagging was the presence of Ms Komal Chhabria Wazir, daughter of late Manu Chhabria and her uncle, Mr Niranjan Thakur, who is also an executive director on the board of Shaw Wallace & Co Ltd. Sources present on the occasion said both Ms Wazir and Mr Thakur were leaving the hotel while Mr Mallya made his unexpected entry.

However, a Shaw Wallace spokesperson said, "As far as I know, no invite was sent to Mr Mallya from our company." A company source added, "When he appeared, there was some initial reluctance. But the party settled down soon and he (Mallya) had our beer. He also met a few of our top executives."

Mr Mallya could not be reached for his comment. The Shaw Wallace event included a fashion show choreographed by Marc Robinson to showcase the creations of leading fashion designer Rocky-S. The celebrities present included Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty, Amisha Patel, Bobby Deol, Karan Johar, Malaika Arora, Lara Dutta and Dino Morea. It is speculated that Mr Mallya, who drops in regularly at the party circuits of Bollywood and fashion business, may have come on an informal invitation extended by one these stars.

The liquor industry observers tracking the UB chief said the significance of his presence at a Shaw Wallace event could not be overstated. It may be recalled that Mr Mallya had visited his arch rival Mr Manu Chhabria at a Mumbai hospital before the latter passed away on April 6 this year. Sources within Shaw Wallace said he had also called up Mrs Vidya Chhabria later to offer his condolences. "He may like to break the ice with the Chhabria household given the changed realities in the domestic alcoholic beverage industry," observers said.

Over the last 17 years, Mr Mallya has been locked in many battles with the Chhabrias who took charge of Shaw Wallace in 1986. This includes a tussle in a Hong Kong court regarding control over Shaw Wallace itself.

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