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BW Businessworld

Chettinad Group Family Feud: 10 Facts

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Offices of the Chettinad group were raided by Income Tax officials on Wednesday (10 June) morning, adding a fresh twist to a family feud in one of southern India's oldest and influential business families. A top Income Tax official said that raids were carried out in 37 places of the Chettinad Group in Tamil Nadu, two places in Andhra Pradesh and a few places in Mumbai. 
The Chettinad Group, started in 1902, was nurtured by Muthiah Chettiar initially and then his sons M.A.M. Muthiah and M.A.M. Ramaswamy. M.A.M. Muthiah had no children and died in 1970. In 1984, M.A.M. Ramaswamy inherited the group after his father's death.
Following are the 10 top developments in Chettinad Group family feud
1) On Tuesday, industrialist M.A.M. Ramaswamy disowned his adopted son M.A.M.R. Muthiah in the latest episode of Chennai's Chettinad feud that unfolded in a dining room where the Duke of Edinburgh was once hosted. Ramaswamy, who lost control of the Rs 10,000-crore turnover Chettinad group to his adopted son but is said to have personal assets worth over Rs 1,200 crore, added that "he (Muthiah) should not perform any rituals after my death" and refused to give him any share of his property.
2) The family feud in the Chettinad group, which deals in cements, hospitality and education among others, came to the fore recently after Ramaswamy was not elected as a director in the Chettinad Cement Corporation, the group's flagship, last year. On May 23 this year, 14 alleged aides of an assistant of Ramaswamy were arrested for locking a room belonging to Muthiah. 
3) Ramaswamy has accused Muthiah and his wife Geetha of violating various provisions of the Companies Act. "Chettinad Cements alone owes hundreds of crores as sales tax arrears to the state government," he said.
4) Ramaswamy, who owns 22 per cent of the Chettinad Group, shares lineage with former finance minister P. Chidambaram and is a former Rajya Sabha member. Ramaswamy had last month accused Muthiah, formerly Ayyappan, of trying to usurp the Chettinad house, located on a 10-acre plot along the Adyar river. The 84-year-old industrialist has spurned recent attempts by Muthiah for a rapprochement, saying "he has no bonafide intention or sincerity".
5) Ramaswamy’s cousin, A.C Muthiah, head of the M.A. Chidambaram Group that owns Southern Petrochemical Industries Ltd (SPIC), said Muthiah has effectively and cleverly taken control of the Chettinad Group. 
6) Ramaswamy and his wife Sigappi did not have any children and adopted Ayyappan, son of R.M. Sekkappa Chettiar, and re-named him M.A.M.R Muthiah in 1996.  Ramaswamy went against the custom of the Nattukottai Nagarthar community and adopted an outsider (most adopt a close relative). Most of the Chettiar community avoided attending the ceremonial rites related to the adoption to show their displeasure. Ramaswamy's cousin A.C. Muthiah said that Ayyappan's adoption was not valid according to the Nagarathar (a mercantile community that follows Shaivism) tradition as he belonged to a different temple.
7) According to media reports, Muthiah clarified that he had tried to patch up with his father many times but was not being allowed to. Muthiah, a shrewd businessman, has given a corporate identity to the various companies under the Chettinad Group after becoming the MD of the group's flagship company, Chettinad Cement, in 1999. Under Muthiah's leadership, the group has grown from an annual turnover of Rs 600 crore to Rs 4,000 crore. The group's interests include manufacturing cement and silica, constructions, transport, power, coal terminal services, healthcare, plantations and textile.
8) The family also used to head the country's first private university - Annamalai University, founded by Ramaswamy's grandfather Annamalai Chettiar - before it was taken over by the Tamil Nadu government last year following allegations of large-scale mismanagement and corruption.
9) In August 2014, Ramaswamy was removed as director in any of the group's companies. He tried to scuttle an AGM resolution to this effect, by allegedly bribing the then registrar of companies, only to see the attempt backfire as the CBI arrested the officer and named Ramaswamy as the second accused. The case is being investigated.
10)  Ramaswamy's family has extensive land holdings in private capacity and in some cases through trusts. The Chettinad Palace, with the palace buildings alone located on a two-acre plot, is estimated to be worth Rs 1,800 crore to Rs 2,000 crore. 

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