East India Hotels (EIH) yesterday inducted RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani's wife Nita and close confidante Manoj Modi on its board, strengthening its relationship with India's largest private sector company. According to analysts, the RIL move also serves to thwart any bid by Kolkata-based ITC for taking control of India's premier hotel chain.
For Nita Ambani, the move to join the EIH board, which runs the Oberoi Group, comes as marked rise to her public profile. Ambani, who turns 48 today, runs IPL team Mumbai Indians.
The studiedly low-profile Modi, who attended college with Ambani, has been instrumental in the implementation of many of RIL's pioneering projects such as its refinery in Jamnagar, known to be the world's largest greenfield refinery at a single location. Yesterday, Nita Ambani and Manoj Modi attended the EIH board meeting as 'special invitees'.
Additionally, the hotel major also inducted Robert Henry Burns, a veteran from the hotel industry and Renu Sud Karnad, joint MD at HDFC, India's largest mortgage firm. According to analysts, the move to take on board stalwarts is an indication that its octogenarian chairman PRS Oberoi, consolidating his board, if threat does come calling.
Besides running Mumbai Indians, Ambani has also been managing the Dhirubhai Ambani International School located in Mumbai's Bandra-Kurla complex.
Ever since RIL acquired a 14.9 per cent stake in EIH in August 2010, there was hushed talk suggesting that it would be a matter of time before Nita Ambani joined the EIH board. Mukesh Ambani had then made an entry with a 14.12 per cent stake in EIH for Rs1,021 crore, to help the Oberois forestall any hostile ITC bid, which also owns a 14.98 per cent stake in EIH. It is seen as a serious business rival of ITC.