On retiring, Ratan Tata to move out of Bombay House

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Stalwart’s new calling card to sport Elphinstone Building address

Ratan Naval Tata, the 75-year old chairman of Tata Sons, is preparing to move to a new office after he retires on December 28.

Contrary to market speculation that he would continue to call the shots at Bombay House even after his retirement, Tata has decided to move office of the key Tata trusts — Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and other allied trusts out of Bombay House and its immediate vicinity such as Ewart House to a heritage building owned by the car-to-software group.

“Tata will occupy the third floor of the stone-clad Elphinstone Building which overlooks the green space of Horniman Circle garden and Saint Thomas Anglican cathedral in the posh South Mumbai area of Fort,” several Tata group officials familiar with the plans told Financial Chronicle. Instead of being the phantom of Bombay House, Tata has decided that he would like to focus full time on making a difference to philanthropy by bringing the rigour of innovation and best management practices to social upliftment.

In a recent interview to Tata group’s Christabelle Noronha, Ratan Tata said, “If I had stepped down at 70 years (of age) I would have had fewer years as chairman and that would have meant an unfinished agenda.”

“I realise I have to live by the rules that I have set and step down when the time comes. And that time has come”, he added.

“The new office which will occupy around 6,000 square feet of space will also have space for other key trustees such as Noshir A Soonawala, the former vice-chairman of Tata Sons, who also serves as a trustee, and R K Krishna Kumar, another fellow trustee who too will retire as a director at Tata Sons within the next two quarters or so,” said a senior Tata official. In anticipation of the move, the building is getting a facelift with a new elevator being installed and the interiors of the third floor being redone.

“We had a number of tenants in this building who have vacated to make way for the group’s needs,” said a senior Tata functionary. The first-ever Tata Starbucks store in India is also housed in the same premises and has its neighbour a Croma Zip store. The building also houses the offices of Tata Realty & Infrastructure, a company that like Croma and Tata Starbucks is supervised or chaired by Krishna Kumar.

Tata has been making way for Cyrus Mistry as the chairman of several leading Tata group flagships across the seven business sectors the group operates in. Earlier this month, he stepped down as chairman of the world’s second largest branded tea company, Tata Global Beverages; chairman of Tata Power Company; and India’s largest upmarket hotels operator Indian Hotels Company. In his place, Mistry, at present deputy chairman of Tata Sons, was appointed as chairman of all the three BSE-listed companies.

In the interview to the group’s in-house communications professional, Tata said, “Cyrus’ values and principles are not different from ours. In addition, he possesses the ability to analyse businesses. I believe Cyrus is more of a numbers man than I am. The group will, therefore, be in the hands of somebody who will understand the business environment better than me. I tend to rely a lot on intuition. I believe Cyrus will bring a new dimension to the group.

“In many cases there may be no more board meetings scheduled until December 28, when he is supposed to step down. So it makes no sense for him to continue as chair of the board as the next meeting to consider the results for the October-December quarter is likely to be held only after he steps down,” a senior Tata official said.

In November, Mistry was also appointed to the newly-created post of deputy chairman of Tata Steel, among the world’s top 10 steelmakers; Tata Chemicals, the world’s second largest maker of soda ash; Tata Motors; and Tata Consultancy Services, Asia’s largest software services exporter. Mistry is scheduled to move to the corner office at these four publicly listed companies once Tata retires as a director and chairman of their boards.

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