Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani Feud, After the Split

In 2007, Anil Ambani had a net worth of $5.5 billion, according to the Forbes Rich List. Mukesh Ambani had a net worth of $ 7 billion. In the 2017 Forbes Rich List, Anil’s net worth had shrunk to just $2.44 billion while Mukesh Ambani net worth has grown to $47.3 billion. Why did the brother Mukesh and Anil Ambani have a feud? How did their mother resolve the feud? How they have fared after the split.

Mukesh and Anil Ambani

Mukesh Ambani, born 19 April 1957, owns Reliance Industries, Reliance Jio etc. Mukesh Ambani is married to Nita Ambani and has two sons and a daughter. Our article Mukesh Ambani: Richest Man of India covers details of Mukesh Ambani.

Anil Ambani, born 4 June 1959, is the chairman of Reliance Group ADAG and owns companies such as Reliance Capital, Reliance Infrastructure, Reliance Power.  In 2008, Ambani is also credited with India’s largest IPO of Reliance Power which was subscribed in less than 60-seconds. He served as a Rajya Sabha member from the year 2004 with the support of the Samajwadi Party. But he resigned in March 2006. Anil Ambani is married to film actress Tina Ambani and has two sons, Jai Anmol Ambani and Jai Anshul Ambani.

Mukesh Ambani did his Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from the University Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT), which is currently known as University of Mumbai, Institute of Chemical Technology (UICT). He enrolled for an MBA at Stanford University but had to opt out in 1980 to help his father build and expand Reliance Industries. Upon coming back, he took command of a yarn manufacturing project in the company. He was only 24 years old when his father gave him charge of construction of Patalganga petrochemical plant.

Anil Ambani got his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Bombay and an MBA degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the USA in 1983 and joined his family business. He established Reliance Capital and was regarded as a financial whiz kid.

Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani with their mother Kokilaben
Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani with their mother Kokilaben

The Feud between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani

“Do barten honge to kadkenge hee”,(if there are two vessels they will make noise) goes a popular Hindi idiom. The brothers were so close that one brother started the sentence and other completed it.

Some say that the wives were responsible for the split, they couldn’t stand each other. Mukesh Ambani is married to Nita Ambani while Anil Ambani is married to film actress Tina Ambani.

Others say that the group of people surrounding Mukesh and Anil made them go against each other.

There is no smoke without fire. They seemed like two people who have different views on running the organization or the businesses they wanted to enter and run, kind of people they want to be associated with there are bound to be some disagreement. This difference is highlighted by their own set of friends, relatives well-wishers and chamchas especially when so much money was involved.

The tale of the two brothers’ diverging fortunes began in 2002  when their rags-to-riches father Dhirubhai Ambani died of a stroke without leaving a will. Dhirubhai Ambani took Reliance Industries public in 1977 and by 2002 when Dhirubhai Ambani died the combined fortune of the family was $60 billion. Following his first stroke in 1986, Dhirubhai Ambani had handed over control of Reliance to his sons, Mukesh and Anil.

In 2002, after the death of the Patriarch, both of the brothers were in confusion as there was no clear demarcation, as to who would officially own which business of Reliance Industries. Mukesh Ambani assumed the role of Managing Director and Anil Ambani settled for the position of Director.  The feud between Mukesh and Anil becomes public in November 2004.

The row between Mukesh and Anil Ambani has reached such a level people were worried.  Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said, “I saw the boys growing up. Because they are sons of Dhirubhai it is very difficult for me to make a distinction between the two. They should try to sort out their issues,” he said.

Resolution of the feud

A feud between his two sons following their father’s death dogged the group until their mother, Kokilaben, stepped in during 2005 and brokered a truce. The formal split happened in 2006. Mukesh got control of the flagship oil refining and petrochemicals, while Anil got the newer businesses such as power generation and financial services. He also took over the telecoms unit, which under Mukesh had expanded aggressively by bundling phones with mobile connections at throwaway prices.

Mukesh and Anil Ambani, who got what in 2005
Mukesh and Anil Ambani, who got what in 2006

After the Split between Anil and Mukesh Ambani

At the time, the wireless division seemed to give Anil some of the more promising opportunities. Crude oil prices had climbed to a then-record price of more than $60 a barrel in 2005, sparking concern that refiners’ margins may get eroded. India’s burgeoning mobile-phone market was hailed as the future.

A non-compete clause between the brothers kept Mukesh out of that arena until the agreement was scrapped in 2010. Mukesh quickly returned, pumping in more than 2.5 trillion rupees ($34 billion) over the next seven years to build a speedier 4G wireless network for his Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

It took a long time to pay off. Reliance’s shares lagged S&P BSE Sensex index for most of the past decade as investors watched Mukesh pour money into his telecom network with little sign of a return at first.

When it came in 2016, the impact was dramatic. By July this year, less than two years after starting the service, Jio had signed up 227 million users and was making a profit. Rivals were bleeding as Mukesh’s upstart embarked on a devastating price war, offering monthly plans for as little as $2. What financed that investment was Dhirubhai’s old oil and petrochemicals business, which, expanded by Mukesh, still accounts for 90 per cent of Reliance’s profit.

How Anil Ambani fared after the Split and why?

In 2007, Anil Ambani had a net worth of $5.5 billion, according to the Forbes Rich List. Mukesh Ambani had a net worth of $ 7 billion. In the 2017 Forbes Rich List, Anil’s net worth had shrunk to just $2.44 billion while Mukesh Ambani net worth has grown to $47.3 billion

Richest Indians in 2005 as per Forbes
Richest Indians in 2005 as per Forbes

Richest Indians in 2018 as per Forbes
Richest Indians in 2018 as per Forbes

Like his brother, Anil invested billions to expand his portfolio, but the younger brother didn’t have a cash cow like the oil refinery to finance growth. Instead, like other businesses in India and elsewhere, many of his companies increased debt.

Of Anil’s businesses, shares of Reliance Naval & Engineering Ltd. saw the worst decline this year. Bought in 2015 as part of his bet on defense as the next engine of growth, the warship and submarine maker has proven hard to turn around. Its loan accounts have been “ irregular or substandard” since 2014,. The defence contractor is in arbitration with ex-owners over the latter’s alleged breach of some warranties. Auditors in April cautioned against the firm’s ability to survive and two creditors have an ongoing lawsuit to send Reliance Naval into insolvency. In a stock exchange filing in April that sought to allay the auditor’s concerns, the company said it is engaged with its lenders and is confident on reaching a solution “to resolve the financial position of the company and to continue as a going concern.”

Another of Anil’s defence firms has come under scrutiny over the 2016 negotiations between France and India for $8.7 billion of French warplanes. In an Aug. 20 statement, Anil and his company denied allegations from opposition lawmakers that the deal unfairly benefited his company, saying the lawmakers had been “misinformed, misdirected and misled by malicious vested interests and corporate rivals.”

Anil’s Reliance Infrastructure Ltd., which built Mumbai’s first metro line, missed a bond payment in August as it waited for proceeds from the sale of power transmission assets to fellow billionaire Gautam Adani’s unit to cover the amount. It plans to be debt-free by next year, Anil said at a briefing in August.

Electricity generator Reliance Power Ltd., also part of Anil’s group, has failed to stem a decade of overall decline in its shares since its record IPO in 2008, just as the global financial crisis hit.

The group’s profitable financial services firm Reliance Capital Ltd. have also seen its shares decline in 2018.

But the biggest challenge for Anil’s empire came from his brother’s business. Reliance Communications Ltd., once the flagship of Anil’s portfolio, was battered by the price war Jio started. Last month, Rcom sold its 178,000-kilometre fibre-optic network for 30 billion rupees as part of a disposal that will see it divest of almost all of its wireless assets and exit from the mobile phone business. The buyer was Mukesh’s Jio.

The sale of RCom assets to Jio brings the saga of the two brothers full circle and sets the stage for the next chapter in the story of one of India’s great business dynasties.

Anil is gradually unwinding RCom’s debts and refocusing the firm toward real estate.  In Oct 2018 he told investors that a property development in Navi Mumbai, a planned city across the bay from India’s financial capital, will create 250 billion rupees in value for investors.

Video on the Tale of Two Brothers Since the Split

BloombergQuint’s Yatin Mota brings you the comparison of how the listed companies of brothers, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani have fared since the split in 2006.

Related Articles:

Mukesh Ambani: Richest Man of India

What do you feel about the Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani feud? Will Anil Ambani be able to review his business?

4 Comments

  1. How did you got this information.?

    1. By researching. It is available on the net.

  2. nice article very informative.. i came here from indiblogger and found this article very informative..

  3. Very informative post, did not have so many info, thanks for sharing.

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