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Noel winner to bag Tata top slot?
Published on 27 Jun. 2010 11:17 PM IST
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The Tata group may have moved a step closer toward finalising an imminent successor to current overall chairman Ratan Tata, by announcing the appointment of Noel Tata as non-executive chairman of Tata Investment Corp.
Tata Investment Corp approved the appointment of Noel Tata after its incumbent chairman N A Soonawala retired having attained the mandatory age limit of 75 years.
The board also appointed FN Subedar as the non executive vice chairman of Tata Investment.
Noel Tata, who currently oversees the group’s retail venture, Trent, is widely seen as one of the successors to Ratan Tata. Ratan Tata is scheduled to retire in 2012. However, a liberal application of the conglomerate’s rules on the age cut-off may also allow Mr Tata, 73, to continue as chairman of the group, till a suitable successor is found.
Noel Tata is managing director of Trent which was set up by the group in 1998 to cash in on then growing potential of the retail sector.
Trent operates lifestyle chain Westside, one of India’s largest and fastest growing chain of lifestyle retail stores, Star Bazaar, a hypermarket chain, Landmark, a books and music chain, and Fashion Yatra, a family fashion store.
Although Noel Tata comes from the same family – he is half-brother to Ratan Tata – the Mumbai-headquartered group has made it clear on different occasions that it is not compulsory for the new chairman to be a member of the family. In fact, Ratan Tata himself said that the top post could also go to an expatriate.
According to group executives Noel Tata is a low-profile man, actively involved in driving the growth plans of Trent. He gives a free hand to professionals running the business and was till now not seen as taking active interest in other group businesses.
The Tata group is one of India’s oldest business families, founded in 1868 by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata who set up the first business, a trading company.
It has since grown into a leading position in various sectors and last year grossed a total revenue of about $71 billion. Its various businesses include steel, automobiles, components, software, hotels, chemicals, power and other sectors.
Tata Sons, the conglomerate’s holding company, owns most of the stake in group companies. About 66% of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts that are endowed by members of the Tata family.
The successor to Mr Ratan Tata is widely-speculated in business circles as the group is closely tracked by Indian and international investors.
The group which first catapulted to the global arena with its acquisition of the UK-based tea company Tetley in 2000, followed that up with a series of takeovers, including the high profile buyouts of UK’s Corus and Jaguar Land Rover.
With about 65% of its revenue coming from outside India, the group has deliberately followed an international management character by appointing expats to top jobs; it recently appointed Carl-Peter Forster from General Motors, to take charge of Tata Motors.

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