Cyrus Mistry, the man who rose to the top position in Tata group, died in a road accident on Sunday while travelling from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. He was 54. Mistry was ousted unceremoniously as the Chairman of Tata Sons after nearly a four-year stint in October 2016.

Mistry’s untimely death comes after a six-year-long soul-destroying battle with the Tatas, and just over two months after his father, Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, passed away on June 28 this year. 

Emerging from the shadows

As the younger son of Pallonji, Cyrus initially remained in the shadows of his illustrious father the head of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, a conglomerate that had started as a construction company in the 19th century.

Cyrus went to the prestigious Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai before acquiring a civil engineering degree from Imperial College, London, and a master’s degree in management from the London Business School.

Wreckage of the Mercedes car in which businessman and former Tata Sons Chairman Cyrus Mistry was traveling when it met with an accident in Palghar (PTI)

Wreckage of the Mercedes car in which businessman and former Tata Sons Chairman Cyrus Mistry was traveling when it met with an accident in Palghar (PTI)

Although he joined the family business in 1991, it was not until 2011 that Cyrus started emerging out on his own when he was made deputy chairman of the Tata Group, with a clear understanding that he will take over as the chairman upon the retirement of Ratan Tata.

In 2012 came the high point in his career when he become only the second non-Tata to lead the Tata Group. One of the first things Cyrus did as the Chairman of Tata Sons was to identify the troubled businesses within the group and set in motion a plan to turn them around.  

Warm, empathetic, hard working

Mukund Rajan, Brand Custodian and Member of the Group Executive Council under Cyrus Mistry, recalls that he was the most hard working person within the Group, setting a fine example of true commitment and dedication to the huge responsibilities he was carrying.

Former Chairman of Tata Group Cyrus Mistry with industrialist Ratan Tata in Kolkata (PTI/File photo)

Former Chairman of Tata Group Cyrus Mistry with industrialist Ratan Tata in Kolkata (PTI/File photo)

“I was privileged to work with Cyrus Mistry as part of his Group Executive Council at Tata Sons. In the four years I worked with him, I found him accessible, warm, empathetic and truly inspirational. He was a lateral thinker and very smart, always encouraging his team to think deeply and do better. His sad demise represents a great loss to the corporate world, as he had so much more to offer had he lived longer,” Rajan said. 

The fallout

But the high point in his career also turned out to be the most acrimonious as Cyrus had a fallout with Ratan Tata. In 2016, Cyrus was ousted as the Chairman of Tata Sons which led to a long bitter battle between the Tata group and  Shapoorji Pallonji Group. Those who know Cyrus closely say that his fight was never about retaining his position as the Chairman of Tata Sons but he was fighting on the principles of corporate governance.

In several meetings with BusinessLine over the last six years, Mistry had explained that his ouster was not due to poor performance as was being made out to be but because he was asking tough questions that made a lot of people uncomfortable. But legally, Cyrus did not have much to challenge his ouster. Despite that, he kept his fight on until May this year when the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition filed by him. 

Tributes

N Chandrasekaran, who succeeded Cyrus as the Chairman of Tata Sons, said: “I am deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely demise of Cyrus Mistry. He had a passion for life, and it is really tragic that he passed away at such a young age. My deepest condolences and prayers for his family in these difficult times.”

Tributes poured from industrialists and political leaders at his demise on Sunday. “Got to know Cyrus well during his all-too-brief tenure as the head of the House of Tata. I was convinced he was destined for greatness. If life had other plans for him, so be it, but life itself should not have been snatched away from him,” Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahidnra Group said. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet, “The untimely demise of Cyrus Mistry is shocking. He was a promising business leader who believed in India’s economic prowess. His passing away is a big loss to the world of commerce and industry. Condolences to his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace.”

“He was a friend, a gentleman, a man of substance. He was instrumental in creating the global construction giant Shapoorji Pallonji and ably led the Tata group,” said Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Group.  

social-fb COMMENT NOW