Karl Slym, Managing Director of Tata Motors, who died here yesterday under mysterious circumstances, may have committed suicide, Thai police indicated today.

51-year-old Slym’s body was found by the staff of a five-star hotel on the balcony of the fourth floor after plunging from the 22nd floor. He was here to attend a meeting of the board of directors of the Thai subsidiary of Tata Motors.

Police have found an apparent suicide note at the scene which has been sent for analysis to confirm that it was written by Slym. “Initially, we can only assume that he committed suicide,” a police officer said.

Police ruled out murder as the cause of the death of Slym, who allegedly fell out of a window of his room at the riverside Shangri-la Hotel. Officials told the media that the window was small and “he had to try hard to get through it”.

The hand-written note was reportedly found in the room which Slym and his wife of 30 years had checked into on January 24. They were to check out yesterday.

The note is also being translated into Thai as part of the investigation, officials said.

Police Lieutenant Somyot Boonyakeow said there were no signs of a struggle in the British national’s room, which did not have a balcony but had a big sealed glass window and another smaller window that could be opened.

Slym’s body was identified by a Tata Motors official, said sources. An autopsy was scheduled for later today.

The executive’s wife may later take the body to Britain, sources said. Boonyakeow said Slym’s wife will also be interviewed.

Pornchai Suteerakune, who heads the Institute of Forensic Medicine, told reporters that Slym died after he fell from the 22nd floor.

Slym was leading Tata Motors at a time when the auto industry was grappling with prolonged slowdown.

He joined the auto major in 2012 as part of a major management overhaul and was responsible for charting the company’s strategy to regain momentum in the Indian market.

Expressing condolences at the sudden demise, Tata Motors Chairman Cyrus P Mistry yesterday said: “Karl (Slym) joined us in October 2012, and was a valued colleague who was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry. In this hour of grief, our thoughts are with Karl’s wife and family.”

As part of a restructuring exercise, Slym last week had announced a voluntary retirement scheme for a section of employees to rationalise costs.

In December, domestic car sales declined 4.52 per cent from a year earlier to 1,32,561 units. Tata Motors’ sales fell about 42 per cent to 6,537 units last month.

Total sales of commercial vehicles were down 25.53 per cent to 46,757 units. The company’s commercial vehicle sales dropped 45.83 per cent to 25,738 units.

Before joining Tata Motors, Slym was the executive vice president, SGMW Motors, China (a General Motors Joint Venture). Prior to that, he was president, managing director and board member of General Motors in India during 2007-11.

For over two decades, Slym was with Toyota and General Motors in various positions across geographies.

(This article was published on January 27, 2014)
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