|CURRENT ISSUE DECEMBER 27, 2004|
|From the Editor in Chief|
It has become India's prime-time reality show. Ever since Mukesh Ambani chose to bring the ownership issues of India's biggest and most powerful corporate house into the public domain, there has been no stemming the flood. The brothers, Mukesh and Anil, have been fighting a proxy war through the media with somewhat disastrous results. Viewers and readers across the country are being treated to a daily glimpse of skeletons in the Reliance cupboard. There is very little dialogue and, of course, the script is clearly being ghost-written. E-mails, documents and minutes of board meetings are the preferred weapons, forcing the warring parties to shift their respective negotiating positions. There are larger issues here, most notably one of corporate governance and transparency in matters that affect the majority of the 35 lakh Reliance shareholders.
The Pandora's box opened by both camps has raised serious questions about investments made by the group through various subsidiaries. The web of investment companies that control Reliance Industries Ltd, the Group's flagship, has served the company well in the past but could also turn out to be its Achilles heel. Now that the Securities and Exchange Board of India has got into the act, it is possible that more embarrassing revelations will emerge in terms of the Group's investment patterns.
In our cover story three weeks ago, we had analysed the origins of the feud and looked at the options available for a settlement. Since then, the battle has turned murkier and the media leaks have brought other issues into the forefront. However, the question uppermost in most minds is: has the battle between the brothers reached a level where the breach is impossible to bridge? There is also the question of whether their mother Kokilaben can somehow broker peace. But if the breach is unbridgeable, the other Rs 1,00,000 crore question is, how will the empire be divided and who will get what? India Today spoke to both camps to establish their negotiating positions and how far each was willing to bend. We then spoke to leading chartered accountants, corporate lawyers and sources in the Registrar of Companies to get expert views on the contours of a possible agreement. Though nobody was willing to go on record, we believe our cover story looks at the most likely scenario in case a settlement becomes unavoidable. Whatever the final denouement, the leaks from both camps and the daily dents in the Group's image and credibility have caused serious damage. One thing is for certain. Whatever happens, Reliance will never be the same again.