Pallonji Mistry | The Phantom of Bombay House Who Would Prefer Losses Over Company’s Reputation

Mumbai: Billionaire Pallonji Mistry, also known as the Phantom of Bombay House, died mid-sleep at his south Mumbai residence on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday. He was 93 and chairman of the 150 years old, Shapoorji Pallonji Group.

The Indian-born Irish citizen received the Padma Bhushan, the country’s third-highest civilian award in 2016 for his contributions in the field of industry and trade.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Mistry has a net worth of about $29 billion, making him one of India’s wealthiest persons.

The majority of the family fortune, however, stems from being the largest minority shareholder (18.5 per cent as of early 2022) in Mumbai-based Tata Sons Pvt., India’s largest conglomerate’s main investment holding firm.

Tata Sons is the main holding company with more than 100 affiliates with yearly revenues of over $100 billion. The Mumbai-based conglomerate employs over 800,000 people in over 100 countries. Shapoorji Pallonji Group, his construction company, has operations in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Shapoorji Pallonji’s revenue was over $6.3 billion in the fiscal year ended March 2019.

According to business filings and a Bloomberg data analysis, Mistry has received almost $2.7 billion in dividends until September 2020. The cash investments’ value is determined by these proceeds, as well as insider trades, taxes, and market performance.

As reported in Bloomberg, according to “Moguls of Real Estate,” which cited Zafar Iqbal, a former chief executive officer of SP Group, Mistry was often willing to complete a construction project even at a loss just to protect the company’s reputation.

The Tata connection:

The Mistry family business began in India in 1865 when Pallonji Mistry’s grandfather began building a firm with an Englishman.

The first project was the construction of Mumbai’s first reservoir at Malabar Hill. Since the 1920s, before Pallonji was born, the elder Mistry has done business with the Tata Group. The Tata and Mistry families are both Zoroastrians whose forefathers fled to India from Persia to avoid religious persecution.

The company grew by taking on large construction projects, such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), The Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, and the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. Mistry began working for his father when he was 18 years old. In 1970, he oversaw the company’s growth throughout the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Dubai. The business reinforced its name in the region by building the Sultan of Oman’s palace complex.

Over the years, his father increased his position in Tata Sons by purchasing stakes from Tata family members, allowing Mistry to become the largest individual shareholder, with a stake today reaching over 18 per cent. During the same time period, the Tata family’s business portfolio grew to include more than 100 enterprises, including well-known brand names such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Tetley Tea, and Corus Steel.

Mistry is known as the Phantom of Bombay House, referring to Tata’s corporate headquarters in Mumbai, his position as the company’s largest shareholder, and his reclusive manner. In 2011, Mistry’s son, Cyrus, was nominated to succeed then Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, marking the first time in 74 years that a non-Tata would follow a Tata.

In June 2012, Mistry appointed his oldest son, Shapoor, as chairman of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group. In an unusual display of conflict atop India’s largest organisation, Cyrus was unceremoniously removed from his position in October 2016.

Key milestones:

  • 1947, at the age of 18, joins the family construction business
  • Begins working on projects in the Middle East in 1970
  • 1972: The Sultan of Oman’s Al Alam Palace is completed, the first overseas project.
  • 2003 Marries Patsy Perin Dubash and obtains Irish citizenship.

Terrorists attacked the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers and the Oberoi Hotel in 2008.

  • In 2010, the Shapoorji Pallonji Group constructs The Imperial, a 60-story skyscraper
  • In 2011, Cyrus Mistry was appointed chairman of Tata Group
  • Shapoor, the eldest son, is named to lead the building company in 2012
  • Tata Consultancy becomes the best performer on India’s benchmark index in 2013
  • In 2014, Cyrus Mistry intends to invest more than $8 billion in roads, airports, and housing projects
  • In 2020, the Mistrys chose to sell their stake in Tata Sons, stating that “a separation of interests would best benefit all stakeholder groups”