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How Mukesh Ambani is charting Reliance succession plan

Mukesh Ambani, who ranks among the world’s top 10 billionaires, first signaled last year that his children would have significant roles in the family’s business empire.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Mukesh Ambani has three children – twins Akash and Isha, and youngest son Anant
  • Mukesh Ambani will continue to be the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd
  • Reliance is “in the process of effecting a momentous leadership transition,” Mukesh Ambani said at an event in December

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani stepped down on Tuesday from the role of director of Reliance Jio, the telecommunication arm of Reliance Industries. Mukesh Ambani’s 30-year-old son and non-executive director, Akash Ambani, was appointed chairman of the board of Reliance Jio, according to a regulatory filing by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

The move by Mukesh Ambani is seen as setting the stage for a leadership transition at his energy-to-retail conglomerate. Ambani, who ranks among the world’s top 10 billionaires, first signaled last year that his children would have significant roles in the family’s business empire.

Reliance is “in the process of effecting a momentous leadership transition,” he said at an event in December.

The succession plan comes at a time when Reliance is in the middle of a very expensive switch to clean fuels by investing across the entire value chain of solar, batteries and hydrogen, according to a PTI report

RELIANCE SUCCESSION PLAN

Sixty-five-year-old Mukesh Ambani has three children – twins Akash and Isha, and youngest son Anant.

Akash’s twin sister Isha is a director on the boards of Jio as well as Reliance Retail, which houses the conglomerate’s ambitious bets in India’s brick-and-mortar space.

The youngest of the siblings, Anant, sits on the board of renewable energy and oil and chemical units of Reliance as a director.

It is widely anticipated that he may hand over the reins of the retail business to Isha, 30, who is married to Anand Piramal (son of Piramal Group’s Ajay and Swati Piramal), according to media reports.

Akash and Isha have been on the boards of Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL) – the company that operates supermarkets offering consumer electronics, food and grocery, fashion, jewellery, footwear, and clothing, as well as the online retail venture, JioMart – and digital arm Jio Platforms Ltd (JPL) since October 2014.

Anant, 26, has recently been inducted as a director of RRVL. He has been a director of JPL since May 2020.

MUKESH AMBANI WILL REMAIN CHAIRMAN, MD

Reliance has three broad businesses – oil refining and petrochemicals, retail and digital services that include telecom. While retail and digital services are housed in separate wholly-owned subsidiaries, the oil-to-chemical or O2C business is a functional division of Reliance. The new energy business is also with the parent firm.

The three businesses are almost equal in size. While Akash and Isha have both been active in the group’s new-age businesses of retail and telecom, Anant has been looking at the renewable energy and oil and chemical units of Reliance as a director.

The announcement outlines a clear transfer of wealth by the billionaire.

However, Mukesh Ambani will continue to be the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd. His wife Nita Ambani, 59, too is on the board of Reliance.

He will also continue to be the chairman of Jio Platforms Ltd – the flagship company that owns all Jio digital services brands including Reliance Jio Infocomm.

Ambani first spoke of a succession plan at Reliance Family Day, which marks the birth anniversary of the group’s founder Dhirubhai Ambani, on December 28 last year. Reliance, he had said, is “now in the process of effecting a momentous leadership transition.” Prior to that, at the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in June 2021, he had indicated that his children will now find a prominent place in the family’s vast empire. He had said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that the next generation of leaders at Reliance, led by Isha, Akash and Anant, will further enrich this precious legacy.”

DHIRUBHAI AMBANI

Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, also known as Dhirubhai Ambani, had founded Reliance in 1973. He led the family business expansion from textiles to oil to telecom. Dhirubhai Ambani died in 2002. Subsequently, mother Kokilaben in 2005 divided Reliance’s assets.

Mukesh Ambani got the refining, petrochemicals, oil and gas and textile businesses, while brother Anil Ambani was put in charge of telecommunications, asset management, entertainment and power generation businesses.

Over the years, Mukesh Ambani transformed Reliance into a behemoth with re-entry into the telecom business as well as forays into retailing and clean energy, while Anil Ambani’s business empire crumbled.

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