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Board meet on July 20 may decide on Birla Corp Chairman

Kohinoor Mandal
Nilanjan Dey

Kolkata , July 16

THE Chairmanship of the Rs 1,200-crore Birla Corporation Ltd may not come easily to Mr R.S. Lodha, despite being the co-Chairman of the company for quite some time now.

Sources in the Birla group said that already a lot of behind-the-scenes activity has started and the board meeting of Birla Corporation, which is scheduled on July 20, is likely to be a stormy affair.

This is the first meeting of the eight-member board of Birla Corporation after the passing away of the company's Chairman, Priyamvada Birla, the sole agenda being to finalise the results of the first quarter of 2004-05.

According to the last annual report of the company (2002-03), apart from the late Priyamvada Birla and Mr Lodha, the other board members are Mr K.C. Mittal, Mr N.K. Kejriwal, Mrs Nandini Nopany, Mr Harsh V. Lodha, Mr Dharmendra Bhandari and Mr Arnab Basu. Mr Mittal, being the Managing Director, is the only Executive Member on the board. Mr Bhandari and Mr Basu are the two nominated directors of UTI and ICICI respectively.

Being the co-chairman of the company, it is being expected that Mr Lodha will chair the meeting. But the Managing Director had a different point of view.

"The Chairman is not there. So I can presume that in her absence, the co-Chairman is likely to chair the meeting. At least this is what one is led to expect by the current designation. However, I think the final decision will be taken by the board members ", Mr Mittal told Business Line.

Mr Narayan Jain, a senior lawyer, clarified that a co-Chairman would need the support of the other board members to occupy the post of chairman.

"The others directors will have to decide whether to elevate Mr Lodha from co-Chairman to Chairman", he said.

When asked about this, Mr Mittal was non-committal. When asked whether the decision would be taken on the day of the meeting, he said: "They can decide it even earlier, but I have no knowledge of what is happening on that front."

It may be noted that Mr Mittal is the only Executive Director. The other board members are in no way attached to the daily activities of the company.

Among the board members, Mrs Nopany is the daughter of Mr K.K. Birla, who is one of the Birla scions challenging the claim of Mr Lodha's inheritance of the MP Birla Group assets. Mr Harsh Lodha is the younger son of Mr R.S. Lodha. Mr Kejriwal, a prominent personality in jute and tea circles, is on the board of several companies and is learnt to be a close aide of the Birlas.

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