Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, wants to speed up Reliance’s leadership shift

Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd., from right, his sons Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani, his daughter Isha Ambani and his wife Nita Ambani pose for a photograph at a polling station during the fourth phase of voting for national elections in Mumbai, India, on April 29, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Dhiraj Singh.

Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, wants to expedite Reliance Industries Ltd.’s leadership transition and sees his $217 billion empire scaling new heights under his three children.

The retail-to-refining conglomerate “is now in the process of effecting a momentous leadership transition from seniors belonging to my generation to the next generation of young leaders,” Ambani said in a virtual speech Tuesday to a Reliance Industries’ employees event. “I would like this process to be accelerated.”

Ambani, valued at almost $91 billion by Bloomberg Billionaires Index, didn’t give details of how this transition is being planned but the billionaire is said to be considering several succession plans including one that shares elements with that of Walmart’s Walton family, Bloomberg reported in November. He wants to avert a succession warfare that has torn apart many wealthy clans, including his own in the past. The transition at Reliance will mark one of the biggest transfers of wealth in recent times.

All senior leaders — including himself — should “yield to the highly competent, extremely committed and incredibly promising talent” at the Reliance group, the 64-year-old said.

Ambani is smoothing leadership transition at his conglomerate after fighting a bitter succession battle with his younger brother, Anil Ambani, when their father died in 2002 without a will. The fight was so intense that their mother, Kokilaben Ambani, had to step in and carve a family pact in 2005 that divvied up the Reliance businesses between the two brothers.

While Ambani hasn’t publicly disclosed any plan or timeline to step away from his responsibilities as Reliance’s chairman and managing director, Ambani’s children are becoming more visible. Addressing shareholders this June, he first indicated that twins Akash and Isha, 30, along with younger sibling Anant, 26, would play significant roles at the company.

The billionaire is considering moving his family’s holdings into a trust-like structure that will control the Mumbai-listed flagship Reliance, Bloomberg reported last month

In his speech Tuesday, Ambani reiterated that his kids were taking more responsibilities as part of the leadership shift. He said he could see in his children the same spark and potential of his father Dhirubhai Ambani — Reliance’s founder — for contributing to India’s growth.

“We must build an organizational culture that outlasts its leaders,” he said. “I have no doubt that Akash, Isha and Anant as the next-gen leaders will lead Reliance to even greater heights.”



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