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The Wadia family
The Wadia family, 1736-2019
Relationship with the Tatas
They are distantly related, and their families have been close for decades.But the long friendship between Nusli Wadia and Ratan Tata has become a casualty of the bitter conflict raging within the Tata Group. The battle lines have been clearly drawn, with the Tatas gunning for the removal of Wadia from the boards of three group companies.
Wadia, 72, a hardened veteran of many a legendary corporate war, threw his weight behind Cyrus Mistry on Thursday . As senior independent director of Tata Chemicals, he backed Mistry to remain the chairman. The Tata response was swift, and emphatic. On Friday, Tata Sons sent notices to Tata Chemicals, Tata Steel and Tata Motors to remove Wadia from their boards. Having backed Cyrus Mist ry to remain chairman of Tata Chemicals on Thurs day , Nusli Wadia again sided with him at a stormy meeting of the Tata Steel board on Friday . The board of Tata Motors is set to me et on Monday .
Wadia, chairman of Bombay Dyeing and Britannia, has served as an independent director on the board of Tata Chemicals since 1981, on the Tata Steel board since August 1979 and Tata Motors sin ce December1998.
On Friday , Tata Sons directed these three companies to call ex traordinary general meetings (EGM) to remove Wadia from his directorship. An EGM is called on a short notice to deal with an urgent matter . To remove Wadia Tata Sons requires majority sup port from the shareholders of the se companies. A Tata insider said Wadia was working in tandem with Mistry , defying the expecta tion in certain quarters that he would side with his old friend in the battle for the control of Tata Sons. “He should have supported us,“ the Tata insider said.
Sources close to Wadia, howe ver , emphasised that he was an in dependent director and could no be expected to blindly toe the Tata line. A long-time confidant of Wa dia described Tata Sons' decision to oust him from the boards as “unwarranted“. Removing a di rector requires “valid justifica tion“, especially if he has served on the board for decades, the sour ce said. Amit Tandon, founder & MD, Institutional Investor Advi sory Services, termed the move by Tata Sons to remove an inde pendent director as `unpreceden ted' in Indian corporate history . “ have not heard of any previous move when an independent di rector was removed from the bo ard,“ Tandon said.
An independent director is supposed to act in the best inter est of the company . Wadia, go ing by annual reports of the three companies, does not own a single share in any of them “The move (by the Tatas) goes very much against the concep and definition of independen directors,“ said Sandeep Pa rekh, founder, FinSec Law Advi sors. With Mistry and Wadia on one side and Ratan Tata on the other side, according to a Tata Group veteran, “the game has just got interesting“.
Wadia's connection with Ratan Tata goes beyond just friendship. Wadia's maternal great grandmother was Sylla Petit, who was the sister of JRD Tata.It was JRD who had anointed Ratan Tata as the chairman of Tata Sons in 1991. Petit and JRD's father, Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (RD Tata), was the first cousin of Jamsetji Tata, the founder of Tata Sons. RD Tata was also a shareholder of Tata Sons.Petit had sold her portion of Tata Sons shares to Mistry's grandfather.
In 1971, Wadia's father Neville was planning to sell off Bombay Dyeing to business baron RP Goenka. However , with the help of JRD and others, Wadia fought to retain control of the company within the family . Then during the first half of the 1990s, he helped Ratan Tata fight old Tata satraps -Russi Mody , Darbari Seth and Ajit Kerkar -and assert his control over Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals and Indian Hotels. Again in 2000, Ratan Tata helped Wadia when Bombay Dyeing was under a takeover threat from Kolkatabased jute baron Arun Bajoria.
While Wadia had served on the boards of Tata companies for decades, in a reciprocal move, Ratan Tata was inducted on the board of Bombay Dyeing where he was a director for more than 33 years. It was only in early 2013 that Ratan Tata had stepped down from the textile major's board.
Apparently , the relationship between the two old friends started changing and the strain in ties became visible over the 520 domestic aviation policy . According to the rule, a domestic carrier that wants to fly international routes should have five-year domestic flying experience and 20 aircraft. Ratan Tata wanted the 520 norm to go to help AirAsia and Vistara, the two recently-floated aviation companies in which Tata Sons held majority stakes. Wadia, on the other hand, wanted the rule to stay to benefit Go Air, run by his younger son Jehangir (Jeh) -who was named after JRD (Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy) Tata.
Wadia and Filmistani fillies
Ness Wadia's Bollywood connection The Times of India
In what has come as a shocking blow to all those who believed that Preity and Ness had indeed broken up on amicable terms, Preity Zinta [in June 2014] pressed molestation charges on her ex- flame Ness Wadia. While the duo maintained that they were still 'friends' this has definitely given an ugly turn to their relationship. While Ness Wadia dated Preity Zinta for almost five years, his connection with Bollywood hotties after and before Preity never made headlines. Let's take a look at Ness Wadia and his Bollywood connection.
Rockstar fame Nargis Fakhri made headlines for her alleged closeness with Ness Wadia. Soon after her debut movie Rockstar was premiered, this hottie was spotted at Karan Johar's birthday party. Even though she was not accompanied by her close freind Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis did find herself in the good company of Ness Wadia. As per a report by zOom, Nargis and Ness spent a good one hour stuck to each other during that party. Though Preity was also a part of the party what made headlines was Nargis' comfort level with Ness.
What became a bigger news was how Preity Zinta ignored Nargis throughout the evening. The air kiss exchanged towards the latter part of the evening was enough to fuel everyone's imagination. Their camaraderie definitely did not go unnoticed. Though Nargis denied the alleagation by saying they were 'just good friends', the entire evening gave us a totally different picture.
Ness Wadia also shared a close friendship with hottie Lara Dutta once. As per a report in Bombay Times, Ness shared a close rapport with Bollywood actress Lara Dutta who was still struggling to find her feet in the industry. As per a report in Bollywood sneak, during his teenage years, Ness Wadia had a crush on Ameesha Patel. They both met for the first time at a famous gym in Bombay and love blossomed. They used to exchange love letters and Ness used to shower her with presents.
Apart from Nargis, Ness had some other Bollywood connections too. Ness Wadia has also been close friends with Manisha Koirala in the past. Manisha Koirala and Ness Wadia's ex flame Preity Zinta did 'Dil Se' together. This film also marked Preity Zinta's debut in the industry. As per a report in Bombay Times, Ness and Manisha Koirala were good friends in the 90s. Ness Wadia is allegedly dating business tycoon Ayesha Thapar now.
Unlike others in his illustrious family, headlines tend to chase Ness Wadia for the wrong reasons. The elder son of Wadia Group chairman Nusli Wadia, and great-grandson of Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the 47-year-old had previously courted trouble when his former girlfriend actor Preity Zinta lodged an FIR against him for allegedly abusing and molesting her five years ago.
The incident had occurred at Wankhede Stadium in 2014, during an IPL match. Preity and Ness had broken off their five-year-long relationship a couple of years earlier, but remained business partners as co-owners of Kings XI Punjab IPL team until things went awry. In October, 2018, the Bombay HC quashed the criminal case. Zinta said the dispute between them was “settled” and she wanted to "move on in life".
There was further trouble in 2016 when a non-cognisable offence was registered after his driver alleged that the industrialist was forcing him to drive fast and when he did not comply, Ness assaulted and abused him.
The Wadia group — perhaps India’s oldest conglomerate, with interests in plantations, foods, textiles, chemicals, electronics, health care and real estate with Bombay Burmah, Bombay Dyeing, Britannia and GoAir being their flagship companies — steered clear of these controversies all along.
The group traces its roots back to 1736 when Lovji Nusserwanji Wadia, founder of the shipping industry in Mumbai, set up a marine company and went on to build the first ships constructed for the British Navy outside England. He also constructed the Bombay dry-dock, the first dry-dock in Asia. Some of the Parsi residential baugs were built by Bai Jerbai Wadia, the great-great-grandmother of Ness Wadia. She conceived plans to build low-cost housing colonies for Parsi families migrating from villages in Gujarat to Mumbai.
Ness’s grandfather, Neville, served as chairman of the Bombay Dyeing textile company until 1977, after which Nusli Wadia assumed the position. His mother, Maureen Wadia was a flight attendant before she started a fashion magazine and is president of a beauty pageant. His brother, Jehangir, is the head of the GoAir airline. Ness who was born in Liverpool studied at The Cathedral & John Connon School and Lawrence School in Himachal Pradesh, and then at Millfield School in the UK. With degrees in international relations from Tufts University in the US and engineering management from the University of Warwick in England he became joint managing director of Bombay Dyeing until 2011 when he resigned. After stepping down, he has been managing director of their Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation and on the board of directors of several family-owned companies.
The two-year suspended sentence for possession of drugs in Japan “will not impact Ness Wadia,” said a statement issued by the group but the public nature of Ness’s mess is likely to stay in focus.