From Ashneer vs Bharatpe to Cyrus Mistry vs Tata, here’s a look at some high-profile boardroom battles and exit of corporate honchos.
The boardroom drama of the fintech major BharatPe shows no signs of calm. Ashneer Grover resigned as the Managing Director and Director of the Board of fintech firm BharatPe on Tuesday. In his resignation letter, he wrote, "I write this with a heavy heart as today I am being forced to bid adieu to a company of which I am a founder.”
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But this is neither the first nor the worst boardroom battle in the history of India Inc.
Infosys was at the centre of a controversy when co-founders NR Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, and Kris Gopalakrishna raised concerns about corporate governance lapses in the company.
The concerns were related to the hefty pay hike of CEO Vishal Sikka, the large severance package given to former CFO Rajiv Bansal and general counsel David Kennedy; and doubts over the Panaya acquisition.
The board fought against the campaign of the ex-cofounders, especially Murthy whose letters were most often presented in the media.
Shortly after, Vishal Sikka the first non-founder CEO of Infosys abruptly resigned. He cited “continuous assault” and “campaign” by Murthy as the reasons for resignation.
With him, R Seshasayee, Jeff Lehman, and John Etchemendy also stepped down from the Board.
Mukesh Bansal quit Flipkart amid a series of top-level exits in 2016. Mukesh had been part of Flipkart since he sold off his fashion portal Myntra to the e-comm giant. He served as head of commerce and advertising business until he put in his papers after the company started losing market share to rivals Amazon India.
As per reports, Bansal’s decision to launch Myntra on an app platform led to a dip in sales initially. This ruffled feathers with promoters leading to his resignation. Along with him former Google executive, Punit Soni, resigned from the position of chief product officer, besides Sandeep Baweja.
The battle started in October 2016 with the sudden ouster of Cyrus Mistry as the chairman of Tata Sons. The move was taken up in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), and the Supreme Court.
After his removal, Cyrus Mistry appealed to the NCLT against the decision. The NCLT dismissed the appeal prompting Mistry to take it to the NCLAT.
The NCLAT upheld Mistry’s appeal and found oppression and mismanagement at Tata Sons. The NCLAT ordered Cyrus Misty to be reinstated as Executive Chairman.
The Tata group then pushed for an urgent hearing in the Supreme Court challenging the NCLAT decision. The Supreme Court put a stay on the reliefs given to Mistry by the NCLAT.
A brutal legal battle ensued in the apex court involving Mistry, Shapoorji Pallonji Group and the Tata Group. Finally, in 2020 an announcement from Cyrus Mistry came, where he said it was time his family separated from the Tata Group.
In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled a knockout decision in favour of Tata Sons. The matter is yet to reach its conclusion as more hearings in the court are expected.
It all started with an audio clip of Ashneer Grover going viral on social media. In the clip, Grover was heard threatening a Kotak Mahindra Bank employee over IPO financing for Nykaa IPO which didn’t come through. This was followed by emails, surfacing between Grover and Sequoia India’s Harshjit Sethi where Grover used explicit language.
Grover then went on voluntary leave. Shortly after, the board of BharatPe announced an independent audit of BharatPe’s internal processes and systems.
Media reports emerged that a preliminary audit report found evidence of fraudulent transactions in recruitment and payments to non-existent vendors.
This was followed by a fiery exchange of statements and legal action between BharatPe and Grover. He accused BharatPe of mounting pressure on him to resign and sought legal aid to protect his 9.5 percent stake. Later his wife, Madhuri Jain was sacked citing misappropriation of funds following which Ashneer Grover resigned.
(Edited by : Thomas Abraham)