Corporations, like any other institution, are driven by the people who lead them. And, although they are discussed on a conceptual plane such as profitability, business cycles, product mix and leverage among others, the intrigue caused by tussles and scandals attracts even the lay reader to the pink papers.
This understanding of human conflict lies at the foundation of TATA vs MISTRY : The Battle for India's Greatest Business Empire. The author, a former journalist who closely followed the unceremonious sacking of Cyrus Mistry from Tata Sons in 2016, has skilfully woven the high octane drama, and the corporate and legal intricacies into a tight and accessible narrative.
It is clear that Tata Vs Mistry was written to answer one question: Why did the Tata group, an institution equated with quality, integrity and reliability, not let Mistry go quietly through the back door when his contract was due to expire in a few months?
In order to maintain a sense of neutrality, the author analyses the lines of reasoning from both camps across various pain points. For example, the Tata camp cited Mistry’s lacklustre performance as the main reason for his sacking by stating that many companies performed poorly under his tenure.
The Mistry camp alleged that he was trying to revive or cut off unprofitable legacy investments that were made during Ratan Tata’s tenure, but he had his hands tied behind his back as the Tata Trusts (the majority stakeholder in Tata Sons that have Ratan Tata as its chairman) vetoed against these moves.
For those who are already familiar with the sequence of events and are looking for any new insights, Tata Vs Mistry will disappoint. Aside from a few hypotheses which include a clash of egos and principles, the complex shareholding pattern that intertwines Tata Trusts and Tata Sons, the Mistry family's stake in Tata Sons and business decisions driven by the Tata ethos, it does not offer many fresh insights.
One can only imagine that both the parties’ candid take on the feud would only be released in the form of memoirs. That may only happen after a fair passage time allows for some perspective, reflection and slim chances of affecting share prices.
Till that time, Tata Vs Mistry is a good place to start for those who have never followed the feud. It turns the boardroom meetings, the heated email exchanges between both camps and the rebuttals that peppered press releases into a riveting account of one of India Inc’s most bitter feuds in recent times.