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AC Muthiah: custodian of all wealth
The Times of India, Jun 10 2015
The soap opera around yet another prominent business family is headed for a climax as Chennai-based industrialist and racing baron M A M Ramaswamy , 84, moved to disown his adopted son and appoint A C Muthiah, cousin and promoter of SPIC, as custodian of all his wealth. Announcing that he had begun the process of annulling his foster son M A M R Muthiah's adoption, Ramaswamy , who holds the record for the most wins in Indian turf history, told TOI, “This is the worst due diligence I have ever done. I bet on the wrong horse.“
Ramaswamy , who managed Chettinad Cement and is better known as MAM, told the media that he would create two separate trusts to ringfence the family fortune from his adopted son and take forward the `Chettinad' legacy of charity and philanthropy .AC Muthiah, he added, would be the custodian of the trusts.
The new-found camaraderie between the cousins has baffled many . “(A C) Muthiah and Ramaswamy are not known to be close. Till not so long ago, they did not see eyeto-eye,“ said a prominent member of the Chettiar community .
But Ramaswamy had an explanation: “It (the dispute) was partly my fault. There was a commercial transaction for which a dispute arose over payments.That was several years back.“
The grandfathers of A C Muthiah and Ramaswamy are brothers, and P Chidambaram, the previous finance minister, is a cousin.
A C Muthiah, who has been in the news in recent times less for his business interests and more for his years-old long fight to dislodge N Srinivasan as BCCI supremo, told TOI, “I came to know that he (Ramaswamy) was unwell and hospitalized last year. I went to meet him, and he told me all the harrowing tales of torture meted out to him by his adopted son. I decided that it was time I stood by my cousin.This will be an additional responsibility for me.“
Grandson of the merchant prince, Raja Sir Annamalai, Ramaswamy is seen as a community leader among the Chettiars and has maintained the family's long-standing tradition of philanthropy through a chain of schools and hospitals.
M A M R Muthiah and Ramaswamy have been involved in an acrimonious and publicly fought dispute, the genesis of which appears control of a vast estate and differences in style of management. While the father, also known as the Raja of Chettinad, was more traditional, almost feudal in his approach, the scion has a more professional outlook. Since taking over the business, M A M R Muthiah has expanded into new sectors and the group's flagship Chettinad Cements' market cap has risen from Rs 60 crore to Rs 4,000 crore.
M A M R Muthiah, previously called Ayyappan, was born in a Chettiar family but was adopted by Ramaswamy in 1996 when he was in his 20s. He has been at the helm of affairs since the late '90s. Tensions erupted two years ago with Ramaswamy accusing him of surveillance and attempts to curtail his activities.Since then the spat has played out at a series of press conferences where allegations were made and countered.
“Before coming into our family he had no business background or experience. Since he was unemployed, one of my relatives in Singapore took pity on him and gave him a job in Jurong Engineering Corporation,“ wheelchair-bound Ramas wamy told mediapersons at his sprawling Chettinad Palace in Raja Annamalaipuram in south Chennai on Tuesday . “He has cheated me... I will not, in my life ever, consider taking him back... To me he is S Ayyappan from now and not M A M R Muthiah.“
Ramaswamy recalled how he went against community rules to adopt his son. “I and my wife Sigappi did not have a child. We thought of adopting a son to look after us in our old age and against a lot of opposition from the Nagarathar (also known as Chet tiar) community . We adopted him from another temple of the community and not from ours, without following the mandatory customs of Nattukottai Nagarathar community ,“ he said, adding that his decision proved to be a big blunder.
“He has stopped even medicine supplies for me from Chettinad Health City (a superspecialty hospital built by Ramaswamy) for nearly three months now. He, his wife and their subordinates have filed 10 cases against me. Interim orders to restrain my activities have been obtained,“ he said. “I am going through untold misery,“ the octogenarian said. “Annulment as per temple tradition (has been) completed,“ Ramaswamy said.
In a bid to patch up with Ramaswamy , M A M R Muthiah had said last week, “I am willing to surrender to him and follow all that he says, if his ideas are constructive and not destructive for our business. If I am told not to challenge him, he should have adopted a slave and not me.“
But Ramaswamy describes M A M R Muthiah's stand differently: “He came in with nothing, going back with plenty .“