Missing CCD owner VG Siddhartha dead, body found on river bank in Mangaluru

Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) Owner VG Siddhartha News: VG Siddhartha, the son-in-law of SM Krishna, was first reported missing on Monday evening by his driver, who was the last to see him. The police had launched a massive search operation Tuesday with teams of NDRF, Coast Guard, Home Guard, fire services and coastal police scouring the swollen Nethravathi river.

The body of VG Siddhartha, the founder-owner of Cafe Coffee Day, was found on the banks of the Netravati river near Mangaluru at 4.30 am Wednesday. His family has confirmed his identity and the cremation is likely to be held today.

Siddhartha, the son-in-law of former Karnataka chief minister SM Krishna, was first reported missing on Monday evening by his driver, who was the last to see him. He had instructed his driver to drop him off at a bridge over the river en route Sakleshpur near Hassan.

The body, which had washed ashore near Ullal this morning, was discovered by fishermen, following which police reached the spot, news agency PTI reported. His body has been kept at Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru, from where it will be taken to Chettanahalli estate near Mudigere.

The police had launched a massive search operation Tuesday with teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coast Guard, Home Guard, fire services and coastal police scouring the swollen Nethravathi river.

Hours before his disappearance, Siddhartha had called his personal staff at the Cafe Coffee Day head office in Bengaluru and informed them about a letter to be disseminated. The purported letter referred to the “tremendous pressure” he was under from lenders and “harassment” from Income Tax officials. And that he was “very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me”.

Police sources said that the July 27 letter that Siddhartha left behind and final conversations he had with a few staff members suggested he was not his usual self. “He told one staff member to look after the interests of the firm after clearing an outstanding loan. He seemed emotional. This was a bit out of character for the businessman,” sources said.

Not only do these issues find mention in Siddhartha’s note to the board of directors of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd and his employees, the publicly-listed company’s latest annual report also bears testimony to its rising liabilities.

Cafe Coffee Day, India’s biggest coffee chain, of late, was battling to repay its debtwhich topped almost Rs 4,500 crore. Though the group had raised debt from banks, mutual funds and NBFCs among others, Siddhartha’s letter to the board made public Tuesday also points to pressure from a private equity partner to buy-back its holdings in Coffee Day Enterprises. It said the private equity partner exerted pressure on him and his businesses.

While Siddhartha also wrote about enforcement action by tax department in the letter, the department said it acted as per legal provisions. In a press statement, the Office of Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Karnataka and Goa, Bangalore (B.R. Balakrishnan) said the provisional attachment of shares was made to protect the interests of revenue out of the income admitted by him based on “credible evidence gathered during searches”. The department had attached Mindtree shares held by Siddhartha and Coffee Day which delayed the Larsen and Toubro deal to buy Mindtree. “This was very unfair and has led to a serious liquidity crunch,” Siddhartha’s letter said.

After VG Siddhartha’s death, shares of CCD further plummeted 20 per cent to hit its lowest trading permissible limit for the day. The scrip tumbled 20 per cent to Rs 123.25 — its 52-week low level as well as its lowest trading permissible limit for the day — on the BSE. At the NSE, it dropped 20 per cent to hit its one year low as also its lower limit of Rs 122.75.

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyuarppa said he is “deeply shocked and hurt” by the demise of VG Siddhartha. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda also took to Twitter to express his condolences. “I am shocked by the demise of V G Siddhartha. He was a very simple man. I knew him for the past 35 years. He had paved way for jobs for thousands of people. The government should properly investigate the cause of his tragic death,” he wrote in Kannada.

Former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah called the CCD owner’s death “both disturbing and mysterious.” “The reasons and the invisible hands that ended his life in this tragic way should be unearthed through impartial and fair investigation,” he said. “The letter supposed to have written by V G Siddhartha few days before his death has discussed about tax terrorism, which is an ugly face of politically motivated institutions. What signals are we sending to the budding entrepreneurs without even an attempt to reform?” he further added.

Source: The Indian Express


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here