Riches to rags - Sad story of 'Complete man' Raymond's Singhania

by Florine Roche


Jan 7 : ‘Debonair, suave and gallant - that's what makes The Complete Man’ - says a 2015 twitter post of Gautham Singhania who was the Chairman of Raymond Group till he stepped down in November 2018. The ‘Complete man’ ad campaign that made Raymond brand a household name in India was anchored in the early 90’s on the basic human truth that a man values his family … and that emotions and relations are the same across people. Well, the bitter power struggle within the Singhania family is an antithesis to what has been portrayed in its ads in the last three decades.

The Singhania family feud mainly involving the 80 year old patriarch Vijaypat Singhania and his son Gautham Singhania is one more high-profile bitter and messy family quarrel that has come out in the open, similar to the one witnessed in the richest Indian family – the Ambanis.

It is ironic that the man who spearheaded the ‘complete man’ concept has himself practically undergone drastic changes in his life but this change has been to the worst. While we are familiar the rags to riches stories in real life of many business tycoons the life story of the Raymond patriarch Vijaypat Singhania’s is a movie melodrama – riches to rags very often a regular feature in Bollywood movies.

Vijaypat claims he along with his wife is reduced to live a life of penury by his son and that he was left with no other alternative but to approach the courts seeking justice. He claims that his son Gautham is refusing to honor an arbitration award over a property dispute among the family members as per the agreement they had reached in 2007. The feud reached its nadir when Vijaypat was sacked as chairman emeritus of family run Raymond Group in October 2018. Though crestfallen by the turn of events Singhania senior is determined to get what he feels is rightfully due to him.

Vijaypat who is known for his adventurous spoils had hit headlines during his days at the helm at Raymond Group for setting world record for highest altitude gained travelling in a hot air balloon at the of 67. He also holds world record for his solo microlight flight from UK to India in 1998. He also who also served as the Sheriff of Mumbai between 2005 and 2006 and is now making news for the legal battle involving the empire he built brick by brick even as he is fighting the most important battle of his life at the age of 80. As a final effort he now plans to test a recent Indian court verdict as per the 2007 law that allow parents to take back the property gifted to the if the children fail to meet their basic needs or fail to look after them properly.

The family history

The Singhania family is part of the legendary JK Group which was the third largest Indian conglomerate after the legendary Birla and Tata conglomerates. It was founded by Juggilal Singhinia and Lata Kamalpat Singhania 1918 - J stands for Juggilal and K for Kamalpat. The JK Empire with business interests in cement, tyre, paper, software, dairy and engineering products with multi location operations later split into three factions among three first cousins – Kanpur, Mumbai and Delhi who now run independent businesses. Vijayapath Singhania who belongs to the Mumbai faction got the Raymond group of companies which went on to become a household name under his able stewardship. He is credited for having transformed a small textile business into a household name in India making the Raymond Group the world’s biggest producer of high-quality worsted wool suits.

Fact file

It can be safely said that filial love proved to be the undoing for Vijaypat who wanted to keep the billion dollar Indian textile empire in the family. With this intent he gifted the control of his empire to his son younger Gautham Singhania along with 37 per cent controlling stake worth over Rs. 1,041 crore in the Raymond group in February 2015. Since then the father-son relationship has deteriorated and bitter power struggle is in the open. Vijaypat seems to have realized his faux pas though a trifle late and terms his inane act that has landed him in the present mess as the “height of stupidity”. Having learnt his lesson a hard way he has a word of advice to parents - “don’t give away your saving to your children during your lifetime”.


Raymond founder Vijaypat Singhania

In fact there are multiple actors in the complex legal war in the Singhnia family feud other than Vijaypath and Gautham. This feud is no less than a family drama having the potential of converting into a typical Bolllywood potboiler. A successful father who strived hard to make Raymond a household name, an estranged son who severed family ties and left the country, father gifting his entire stake to the younger son only to regret it later, the court battles, grand children going to court against grandfather, filial love going awry, the karma factor and of course ample doses of greed, treachery, emotional blackmail, maneuvering, falling moral values et al, is surely the stuff of a Bollywood masala movie.

Though the feud between Vijaypat and Gautham is in public domain thanks to the media, it may not be known to many that Vijaypat has an elder son by name Madhupati who severed family ties in 1998 following a discord over differences in management style and also what he claims as the ill-treatment meted out to him. Before parting ways he signed a Family Agreement as part of the settlement wherein he relinquished his rights as well as the rights of his four children to the Raymond Empire. He then migrated to Singapore along with his family to lead an independent life.

However when Vijaypat gifted his 37 percent stake to Gautham further escalated the family war paving the way for another legal battle. Madhupatis four children moved to Mumbai High Court and sued their grandfather contending that their parents had no right to act on their behalf. They challenged the agreement their parents had signed in 1998 saying their parents had no right to part away their ancestral rights. It is argued that the children sued their grandfather with the at the insistence of their father Madhupati. The Mumbai High Court had asked the family to settle the dispute amicably.

The Final Straw

However the dispute between Vijaypat and Gautham plumbed to a new low resulting in Vijaypat’s dismissal as Chairman Emeritus in October 2018. The contentious issue of the dispute is the rights over J K House, a family owned 36 storey redeveloped property in the plush Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai. As per the 2007 agreement reached as part of a separate family dispute settlement Vijaypat was supposed to receive an apartment in the J K House.

Gautam who felt that the price agreed upon in 2007 was far below the market value of the flat he advised the Raymond Board against selling a valuable company asset. Vijaypat moved the high court alleging that Gautham failed to honour an arbitration award over property dispute among the family members. The feud escalated and the Board dumped Vijaypat unceremoniously sacking him from the company.

While Vijaypat is now on the warpath another angle to the feud has surfaced. According to some source Vijaypat is reaping what he has sown. Those who know the family from close quarters believe that what Vijaypat is going through is the result of his own actions – the Karma factor. Not many know that Vijaypat had a brother by name Ajaypat. Sources say, after the death of Vijaypat’s brother Ajaypat who was part of the Raymond Group, his widow and two children were deprived of everything that was due to them.

However, there are others who dismiss the karma factor and term the feud as nothing but greed for money and power. This sordid saga of the Singhania family has added another chapter in the family feud history of corporate India. It also proves that money cannot buy everything including relationships no matter the form in which they come in.

 

Comments

  • Abdul Jehan
    Tue, Jan 8 2019

    This is a very good lesson for parents who blidnly love children keep them on head. Parents must teach children to teach how to earn, should transfer funds or property when they are alive. Thank you British News for brinigng such a wonderful eye-opener article.

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