A few years after independence Bhai Mohan Singh, a wealthy contractor who had migrated to Delhi from Rawalpindi during partition took over a small Amritsar-based company called Ranbaxy, run by the brothers Ranbir Singh and Gurbax Singh after whom it was named. Over the next 40 years, he built the small pharma distribution firm into a powerhouse with well-known drugs such as the Calmpose and Cifran, both reverse engineered from products by multinational pharma companies.
By the late 1980s, Mohan Singh, now in his 70s, decided to divide his business comprising three companies Ranbaxy, Max India Ltd, and Montari Industries, among his three sons. Parvinder, the eldest and reportedly his favorite, got the jewel in the crown, Ranbaxy, where he was appointed managing director though Mohan Singh stayed on as chairman of the company.
It wasn't to be a happy division, sowing the seeds of discord between the brothers that would erupt over the next few decades. The complex and intermingled shareholding pattern of the companies would soon result in serious disputes, even though a family settlement was arrived at in 1988.
Even worse, Mohan Singh's love for his eldest son was also tested soon, as Parvinder's style of working including his reliance on a handful of key executives, especially Devinder Singh Brar, disenchanted the patriarch. The result was a bitter boardroom battle between the two. In his book, The Ranbaxy Story the late Bhupesh Bhandari writes about how at one of the board meetings, Punjab’s present chief minister and then a board member at Ranbaxy, Captain Amarinder Singh, threatened to lift Bhai Mohan Singh and throw him out of the boardroom. The acrimony finally led to the father's ouster from the board and the company in 1993.
Parvinder, who had a master’s degree in pharmacy from Washington State University and a doctorate from the University of Michigan, believed that the company should be run by professionals and its future lay in markets abroad. Mohan Singh was old-fashioned and gave primacy to the family. Vitally, he also claimed that he was to continue as Ranbaxy's chairman and MD till the end of 1998 with Parvinder as vice-chairman and that this arrangement had been approved by the company’s board as well as the financial institutions.
Court documents dating back to 2002 state that the "first defendant (Parvinder) persistently breached the fundamental features of the agreement and term of the family settlement relating to the continuance of overall control and supervision of the plaintiff No. 2 (Mohan Singh). This conduct of the defendant led to the initiation of arbitration proceedings which were presided by Hon'ble Mr. Justice E S Venkatarmiah, former Chief Justice of India. The behavior of the first defendant became so disrespectful, arrogant that plaintiff No. 2 was forced to resign as Chairman and Managing Director of Ranbaxy."
An embittered Mohan Singh in his will nominated his youngest son Analjit as his sole legal representative to carry on his legal challenge against Ranbaxy and its promoters Parvinder and his family over the ownership of approximately 24 lakh shares of Ranbaxy held by 30 odd companies.
Tragically, Parvinder died of cancer in 1999, and seven years later in March 2006 his unhappy father too passed away. It was a sad end to two of India’s most brilliant business leaders, the father a legendary entrepreneur and the son, one of India’s most dynamic and progressive business leaders.
Within a couple of years of the patriarch’s death, Parvinder's sons Malvinder and Shivinder sold off the company to Japanese pharma major Daiichi, bringing to an end a once-proud business dynasty.