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HomeEditorialA friend in need is a brother indeed — Ambanis

A friend in need is a brother indeed — Ambanis

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Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani has helped his younger brother avert a stint in jail, stepping in to make an $80 million payment for his sibling whose telecom-to-infrastructure empire was struggling with debt. Well, we all know that blood is thicker; in Mukesh Ambani’s children’s marriage, both the families were seen united and happy. Until Dhirubhai was alive, the family was under his control; after his death, the differences were spit wide open, but before they separate, Mukesh managed Petrochemicals. He also built Telecom business single-handedly. Anil was handling Finance and energy/electricity. Anil was the public face of Reliance. He also interfaced with the investors. Mukesh kept busy building the assets and mostly stayed in the background. Both brothers were married by then, and finally, they decided to separate the business. Initial idea was that allow the brothers to keep the business they were handling. Anil did not agree. On request from Kokilaben, mother of both, Kamath of ICICI became an advisor to them. It was decided that no business must be split. A business in its entirety must be transferred to one party. Mukesh was deep into Petrochemical business and he was managing it well. Anil was managing finance. So it became apparent that Mukesh would get Petrochemicals and Anil would keep Finance and Energy business. Anil wanted Telecom, though it was a Mukesh’s baby, to maintain the parity. Mukesh was reluctant because he had grand plans for telecom. After a lot of heartburn, Mukesh handed over Telecom to Anil. So after separation, Anil had large cash, new fast growing Telecom, old finance, and promising energy business. Mukesh had just one entity and that was RIL.

Initial days were great for Anil Ambani who loved to dabble with too many things. That gave him high. Mukesh loved doing one thing right. Anil looked for horizontal spread while Mukesh looked for the depth. So, Anil became darling of quick return-seeking investors and Mukesh became GOD for the project management professionals.

Anil loved flashy lifestyles, rarely managed the business at a micro level. It was said that Mukesh could conduct a meeting for hours without taking a loo break. He was always the God of details. Their businesses are easily differentiated today because of their personal characteristics, not because one business was more profitable than other or the luck factor. Years back, Mukesh chose CDMA over GSM because he believed in DATA. Anil never understood that. To him, telecom was just another business like film production. That’s why Reliance Telecom failed after Anil took over. He didn’t have a passion for the business. To Mukesh, telecom meant a different thing altogether. That’s why he is back with JIO.

After the split, Mukesh said that he would NOT waste a single minute in future. If you recollect his previous speeches, Anil publicly thanked Tina, his wife, for guiding him through the split and said, “We (together) did it. Whereas Mukesh’s approach was firmer and his wife was busy handling family and other firms.

Some also believe that Dhirubhai Ambani, hadn’t left a will. Mukesh became Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd and Anil was made Vice-Chairman. Mukesh and Anil were in a bitter feud for the control of the Ambani Empire and it became ugly when Mukesh tried to oust Anil from the Reliance board. By March 2006, with the consolidation of his telecom companies, Anil Ambani had toppled Mukesh Ambani in net worth, to be the 3rd richest Indian after Laxmi Mittal and Azim Premji. Anil was richer than Mukesh by approximately Rs 550 crores. At the time, Ambani’s had a 46.67 per cent stake in the Reliance Industries Ltd, the public 13.48 per cent, and FII’s 22.85 per cent. As of now, the difference in wealth between the brothers is $41 billion, which is about Rs 2,82,900 crores. Mukesh Ambani’s net worth is $43 billion whereas Anil Ambani’s net worth is $2 Billion.

In November 2017, Mukesh’s Reliance Industries debt had doubled to Rs 1,96,601 crore in the last five years as it invested telecom subsidiary, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. The company raised $800 million with the sale of 10-year bonds overseas at the cheapest rate for a non-financial Indian issuer.

Meanwhile, Anil’s, Reliance Infrastructure debt was at Rs 28,000 crore, Reliance Communications was Rs 45,000 crore and Reliance Power is at Rs 30,000 crore debt. However, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications defaulted on dollar bond payments. In 2002, when Dhirubhai was alive, Reliance Infocom was launched. Mukesh and Nita indirectly owned 50.5 per cent and 45 per cent of the shares were held by RIL. On the birth anniversary Dhirubhai, December 28, 2003, Reliance Infocom launched its services; it was Mukesh’s way of paying homage to his father.

The loss of the firm became a sore point for Mukesh, and in June 2008, when Anil announced that RCom would merge with South African telecom giant MTN, Mukesh opposed the merger.

The Ambani brothers were once referred to as Ram-Lakshman in corporate circles. Anil hero-worshipped his brother and he was happy to let Mukesh run the mega-corporation but resented being sidelined. After the entire saga both the brothers again got united. Anil Ambani thanked his brother Mukesh and sister-in-law after Anil’s Reliance Communications Ltd. completed the required Rs 5.5 billion ($80 million) payment to a local unit of Ericsson AB for past maintenance services provided to his group. Repeated failures to pay and Anil’s personal guarantee landed him in trouble in February, with India’s top court giving him a month’s notice to comply or face prison. The last-minute twist shows family ties appear to have won out despite the brothers’ fraught relationship over more than a decade. The scions of one of India’s richest families have feuded over control of an empire left behind by their father. After Mukesh and Anil carved up the conglomerate, the older brother’s oil and petrochemicals business flourished, while Anil’s businesses ranging from telecommunications to power and infrastructure strained under massive debt. He has fended off creditors in multiple court cases.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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