Cyrus Mistry Death: The 'Outsider' Who Made It to The Top of Tata Group

In a shocking development, Cyrus Mistry was killed in a road accident in Palghar on Sunday afternoon after the Mercedes he was travelling in rammed into a divider. The accident of the business tycoon, who was the younger son of Indian billionaire and construction magnate late Pallonji Mistry, took place when he was travelling from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.

In his career, Cyrus Mistry has been in key positions of the corporates in India — from being the managing director of construction giant Shapoorji Pallonji Group to taking over as the chairman of Tata Sons in 2012, succeeding Ratan Tata — the first Non-Tata to head Ratan Tata’s empire.

Civil engineer & London Business School alumnus

Mistry (54) was born on July 4, 1968, to a Parsi family in Mumbai. He did his graduation in civil engineering from the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London in 1990. He completed a Master’s degree in management from the London Business School in 1996.

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Cyrus Mistry joined the Shapoorji Pallonji Group in 1991 as a director. He had been the managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji & Company, which is part of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, and also chairman of Tata Sons and of the Tata Group.

Mistry is survived by wife Rohika Chagla, the daughter of lawyer Iqbal Chagla, and two sons.

First Non-Tata to head Ratan Tata’s empire

Mistry joined Tata Sons’ board in September 2006, after his father retired from it. Earlier, Cyrus Mistry had held non-executive positions on boards of several other Tata companies.

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Mistry in November 2011 was appointed deputy chairman of the Tata Group, with the goal of taking over as chairman a year later, upon the retirement of Ratan Tata, who had headed the conglomerate since 1991. He then took over the top post in 2012, the first in the company’s history not to be a blood relative of the Tata family.

Cyrus Mistry, however, could retain his post for just four years till 2016 when he was removed in a boardroom coup led by Tata Trusts. The Trusts owned 66 per cent of Tata Sons and was controlled by Ratan Tata.

In December 2016, two Mistry family-backed investment firms – Cyrus Investments Pvt Ltd and Sterling Investments Corporation Pvt Ltd – moved the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), alleging mismanagement by Tata Sons. In February 2017, Mistry was removed as a director on the board of Tata Sons, the holding company of Tata Group firms.

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In a court battle, the Supreme Court in 2021 ruled that the removal of Cyrus from the Tatas was legal. It also upheld Tata Sons’ rules on minority shareholder rights. After his tenure at Tatas, Mistry then set up his new venture capital firm, Mistry Ventures LLP.

Shapoorji Pallonji’s business grew manifold under Mistry

Under Mistry’s guidance, Shapoorji Pallonji’s construction business grew manifold. The companies evolved from pure construction to executing projects under design and build and EPC delivery methodologies, implementing complex projects in the marine, oil and gas, and rail sectors.

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Cyrus was responsible for building the infrastructure development vertical in the Shapoorji Pallonji Group starting in 1995 with a 106-MW power project in Tamil Nadu followed by the development of India’s largest biotech park near Hyderabad in partnership with the Andhra Pradesh government.

The infrastructure vertical also developed large road projects. Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s foray into agriculture and biofuels was also overseen by him. He resigned from the company upon being made deputy chairman of the Tata Group.

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