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Noel among contenders for Tata Group chief: Ratan Tata

The 73-year old is scheduled to retire as Tata group chief in December 2012, when he turns 75, and a search panel was formed in August last year to find his successor.

twitter-logoPTI | April 14, 2011 | Updated 15:14 IST

Business mogul Ratan Tata, who heads a conglomerate comprising nearly 100 companies, on Wednesday said his successor would be in place by middle of the year and his step-brother was one of the contenders.

"I hope that by the first half of this year, we'll be able to define a suitable candidate with whom one can overlap for a short period of time, before I move on," Ratan Tata said in an interview of CNN International's 'Talk Asia' programme.

The 73-year old is scheduled to retire as Tata group chief in December 2012, when he turns 75, and a search panel was formed in August last year to find his successor.

Asked what were the chances of his successor not having Tata as the last name, the industrialist said he would not like to comment on that.

"My step-brother is one of the candidates that is being considered and I don't think it's my lot to say whether it's fifty per cent, or ninety per cent or ten per cent, so..." he added.

He was referring to 53-year old Noel Tata, his half-brother and a senior group executive. Noel is chairman of the group's retail arm Trent and also managing director of Tata International, a trading company.

Tata, who has been heading the group as Chairman of its promoter company (Tata Sons) since 1991 and had joined the group in 1962, said it had been an exciting time for him.

Asked about who would succeed him, Tata said: "There is a committee that's been established. That committee is mandated with looking at internal candidates, external candidates, Indian expatriates and they have a short list of people who they're examining today and who they are meeting."

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"I've stayed away from that committee because I think it should operate independently, without the force of someone who is looking over their shoulder and I hope that by first half of this year, we'll be able to define a suitable candidate with whom one can overlap for a short period of time before I move away," he added.

When asked whether the finalisation of his successor could cause a family strife, Tata said: "No, I don't think it will. I have no way to know."

Talking about the legacy he wanted to leave behind, Tata said: "...a sustainable entity of a set of companies that operate in an exemplary manner in terms of ethics, values and continue what our ancestors left behind. Not my legacy alone but a continuation of the legacy that extends over the last hundred years. I hope my successor will be as committed to that as I have tried to be."

He went on to say his only regret was not being 20 years younger, but maintained that he did not crave to stay at the top of the country's biggest corporate empire.

Speaking about the business environment in India, Tata said his group has succeeded in growing without indulging in things like kickbacks and bribes.

"I would say we could have grown faster and could have prospered more as a group but we have never partaken in this kind of activity," he added.

Asked whether anyone in his company or any lobbyist did anything inappropriate or illegal, he added: "I can say with my hand to my heart, we have not partaken in any clandestine activity. I am hopeful that the investigations that are underway will truthfully bring out the position and that truth will be on the table before too long."

Speaking further about the corruption issue, he added: "I think what's happening now will put things in the right perspective. I hope that it doesn't become a nation of scandals and allegations as they are...More importantly, the media has to be more circumspect and be careful they don't malign or allege or convict people before they've had a fair trial."

Asked whether it was hard to be an honest businessman in India, Tata said: "I think there are many honest businessmen, I think there are many that bend. I'm happy that I have not bent, not that I am dishonest but that I have not bent."

Besides the group's promoter company Tata Sons, Ratan Tata is Chairman of major group companies like Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels and Tata Teleservices.

During his tenure, the group's revenues have grown nearly 12-fold, totalling $67.4 billion in 2009-10.

He also serves on the boards of Fiat SpA and Alcoa and is also on the international advisory boards of Mitsubishi Corporation, the American International Group, JP Morgan Chase, Rolls Royce, Temasek Holdings and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

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