Mumbai: Billionaire Mukesh Ambani outlined the businesses each of his three children will oversee during Reliance Industries Ltd.'s annual shareholder meeting, laying down for the first time a clear succession path at the $220 billion Indian conglomerate that became mired in a bitter fraternal feud almost twenty years ago.
"Reliance's next-gen leaders are confidently taking over the reins across businesses,” Ambani, 65, said on Monday, referring to his son Akash, daughter Isha and youngest son, Anant. "Akash and Isha have assumed leadership roles in Jio and Retail respectively. They have been passionately involved in our consumer businesses since inception. Anant has also joined our New Energy business with great zeal."
While Akash took over as the chairman of wireless operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. in June - the first concrete sign of the leadership transition at the retail-to-refining conglomerate - roles for his two other children were still not publicly announced. With Ambani giving a clean steer on Isha helming of the the group's retail ventures and Anant leading the front on the renewable energy, Asia's second-richest person is seeking to avoid a repeat of the succession battle he was plunged into.
His father and Reliance founder, Dhirubhai Ambani, died without a will in 2002, triggering an ugly and very public power struggle between Mukesh and his younger brother, Anil, who were both involved in the business at that time. This tussle eventually snowballed and three years after Dhirubhai's death, their mother was forced to intervene and divvy up the businesses between the two brothers as part of a truce pact.
Ambani, with a net worth of almost $93 billion, built Reliance into India's largest company by market value and has been diversifying the corporate behemoth beyond its fossil fuel-led origins toward technology and renewable energy. With Reliance far more exposed to global headwinds - thanks to marquee investors who pumped in $27 billion in 2020 - Ambani will be keen to avoid any leadership friction.
His twins, Akash and Isha, have played pivotal roles in the company's shift toward retail and technology, including talks with Meta Platforms Inc. that secured a $5.7 billion investment in Reliance's Jio Platforms Ltd., the vessel for Ambani's e-commerce ambitions.
The three heirs are "part of a young team of leaders and professionals who are already doing amazing things at Reliance,” he said. "Of course, all of them are being mentored on a daily basis by our senior leaders, including myself and the board of directors."
Ambani on Monday reassured investors that he'll continue to provide "hands-on leadership” at Reliance as it navigates a world potentially primed for a global recession.
"The succession plan addresses the market's concern on business sustainability during leadership transition,” said Horace Chan, senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
But Ambani's speech "lacks thorough discussion over a long-term restructuring plan for the group, including spin-offs of each business arms,” he said referring to investor expectations around Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail Ltd.'s initial public offerings.