When Cyrus Mistry was Ratan Tata's blue-eyed boy

Hours after the Board of Directors decided to remove him as the Chairman at Tata Sons, the Pallonji Mistry-controlled Shapoorji Pallonji group termed the removal 'illegal'.

Cyrus Mistry was on Monday replaced by Ratan Tata, the same man he was appointed to replace about four years ago. The news of Mistry's removal came as a surprise to many corporate leaders as he was believed to be Ratan Tata's handpicked successor.

Hours after the Board of Directors decided to remove him as the Chairman of Tata Sons, the Pallonji Mistry-controlled Shapoorji Pallonji group termed the removal 'illegal'.  Mistry is the son of Pallonji whose family controls over 18 per cent of equity in Tata Sons.

Pallonji group's decision to fight the removal in the court, if it happens, could turn out to be a biggest corporate face-off between the two of Mumbai's oldest business families.

Latest reports suggest Cyrus Mistry has dismissed speculations that Pallonji Group will challenge Tata Sons at the court over his dismissal.

Earlier in 2011, Forbes India reported on the relationship that Bombay's two oldest business families enjoyed over the years. It wrote: "Ties between the Mistry and Tata families have been close - and contentious - ever since 1936 when Cyrus's grandfather Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry bought 17.5 per cent of Tatas' main holding company, Tata Sons."

At a time when the relationship between two former and current heads of Tata Group seems to have taken an ugly turn, let's take a quick look  at times when Cyrus Mistry was believed to be Ratan Tata's blue-eyed boy.

Earlier in 2011, Tata Sons former director JJ Irani told the Business Standard that Tata would often seek out Mistry's advice. He said: "In board meetings, Tata would often seek out his advice." "There has always been a strong chemistry between the two," Irani reportedly said.


It was reported that Mistry's past professional record was exemplary and he was a workaholic. Apart from growing the Shapoorji Pallonji group, he was also credited with turning around the Group's infrastructure company Afcons. "That was his biggest achievement," RPG's Goenka had reportedly said. Ratan may have preferred the workaholic to head the Group.

Two weeks before passing the baton to his successor, Ratan Tata's first advise to Cyrus Mistry was - Be your own man. "Be your own man, you should take your own call and you should decide what you want to do," Tata had advised Mistry back in 2012. 

Ratan Tata trusted Cyrus's past professional performance and handed over the rein of 140-year-old conglomerate, now it was Mistry's turn to pay back.

Within days of taking over as the chairman of the Tata Group, Cyrus Mistry praised Ratan Tata for putting the company on the global map.

"Under the enlightened leadership of Ratan Tata, the Group has evolved from being a large business group operating primarily in India into an even larger institution with a global footprint," Mistry had said.

After taking over as the head of the Tata Group, Mistry had also shot off an email to all the employees praising Tata's uncompromising adherence to a resilient value system of the company.

"Strong foundations have been laid for a culture committed to innovation, quality and collaboration. And thanks to Tata's uncompromising adherence to a resilient value system, a platform has been created which we can cherish and that evokes pride in all of us," he wrote.

In fact, in an interview to the company's in-house magazine Mistry had said: "For this peerless institution, this was more than a routine change of guard at the leadership level. It was a generational change. Many senior executives who had helped shape the group for decades were retiring around the same time. There was great institutional knowledge with them which I needed to imbibe before they called it a day. Therefore, my initial approach was to adopt a listening mode," he said.