The billionaire Hinduja brothers have called a truce on a power struggle that threatened the future of the business empire of the UK’s wealthiest family.
The brothers agreed to halt litigation in Europe.
With accusations ranging from a funding squeeze to misappropriated cash, the fight had drawn criticism from a London judge, especially over the care of the family patriarch and chairman of Hinduja Group, Srichand Hinduja (86). This threw open the possibility of a break-up of the ownership structures behind the century-old conglomerate.
At the heart of the battle was a pact signed by the four brothers in 2014 that said “everything belongs to everyone and nothing belongs to anyone”.
But in a legal filing, another brother Gopichand Hinduja accepted the 2014 letter was no longer legally enforceable against Srichand.
The decision by the family to go for a truce will not have an impact on the way group businesses are functioning, Dheeraj Hinduja, executive chairman of the group’s flagship company Ashok Leyland, told Business Standard on Friday. Dheeraj is the son of Gopichand. The other brothers are Prakash and Ashok.
“Business has been going normally,” Dheeraj said.
The family reportedly has net worth of around $15 billion and ranks 110th on the Forbes list of the world’s richest. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the family is one of the wealthiest in the UK.
“All our listed companies have an independent board. They are board-managed and so there is no difference,” Dheeraj said.
With dozens of companies — including six publicly traded entities in India — Hinduja Group employs more than 150,000 people in 38 countries in truck making, banking, chemicals, power, media, and health care. Its firms include Quaker Chemical Corp, and IndusInd Bank Ltd.
According to the UK court filing in June 2020, it was cited that a dispute had started between Srichand with his three younger brothers over the ownership of a Geneva bank of the group. The conflict among the brothers also cropped up over control of a bank that they have in Switzerland (Hinduja Bank).
The four brothers had always presented a united front, with little to suggest that not all was well in the family, which, however, was revealed to be deeply divided after court proceedings exposed the internecine spat that pitted Srichand’s side of the family, led by his daughter Vinoo, against the rest.
London appeal judges on Friday lifted reporting restrictions on court hearings centred on Srichand’s health and the care he was receiving following an 18-month legal battle.
Judge Anthony Hayden said he’d been troubled by the extent to which Srichand was marginalised by the family.
“He has been demoted to the back row of the court and he will be returned to the front,” the judge said. “Words and platitudes have not been made good.”
During the hearing, the funding from the family dried up to such an extent that lawyers brought in to act independently on behalf of Srichand said they were considering moving him from his private hospital to a National Health Service facility. Gopichand’s lawyers say more than £5 million had been made available.