Birlas are questioning whether Priyamvada should have
made Lodha the beneficiary of her will. But isn''t it her
will anyways? asks Uday Chatterjee
Priyamvada Birla shocked and awed the Birla parivar and
the nation by demonstrating that she had a will. And by
doing that, she displayed a rare trait for a traditional
Indian bahu who is not supposed to have a personality
of her own in the first place, let alone a will.
passed away on July 3 and on Monday, July 12 a salient
feature of the will was read out to the senior Birlas.
That set the cat among the pigeons. The Birla kartas were
sent smarting, the Birla bahus cowering, Priyamvada was
smirking all the way to heaven and a gentleman named R.S
Lodha was laughing all the way to the bank.
a rank outsider, has become the sole beneficiary of Priyamvada''s
legacy worth over Rs 5,000 crore.
Lodha, how Lodha, why Lodha and why not Yashovardhan Birla
are the questions now being asked by all and sundry.
first thing we come to realise about Lodha is that he
can be as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Try to contact
him at his office and he is at home. Contact him at his
home and he is in office. Contact him simultaneously at
office and home and he is perhaps, in New Delhi.
exasperated google search reveals that he is senior partner
of the leading accounting and consulting firm M Lodha
& Co which is the Indian member firm of BDO International
(the 6th largest international accounting firm having
annual billing in excess of US$ 2.2 billion). He is the
chairman of BDO Lodha (P) Ltd. and BDO International (P)
past president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce Kolkata
and of FICCI, Lodha has served for six years on the central
board of the State Bank of India as well as on its executive
committee. A gold medalist in his C.A. exams, he has also
served as vice president of the Indian Council of Arbitration.
has also served on the boards of inter alia National Securities
Depository Ltd, Tourism Finance Corporation and Oriental
Insurance Co Ltd and on SEBI''s committees on Takeover
Code Review and on Disclosure in Offer Documents. Besides
he is chairman of Alfred Herbert (India) Ltd and co-chairman
of Birla Corporation Ltd, the flag ship company of the
M.P Birla group.
protégé of the late M.P.Birla, Lodha was
introduced to the M.P. Birla group about twenty years
ago. He is also associated with the other Birla group
companies and is considered to be a Birla insider though
not a family member. And finally, he looks as if he is
in his mid fifties.
the death of M.P. Birla in 1990, Priyamvada took over
the reigns of her husband''s group businesses and charities.
She ran the group''s activities with the close help and
association of Lodha. As it stands today, Lodha had been
the closest confidante and right hand man of Priyamvada.
why did she will all her assets to a non-family member
is a question, which begs an answer. And many are wondering
why Yashovardan Birla, the legal heir was left out in
the cold. Only Priyamvada knew why.
and her husband were issueless and as per the succession
law, Yashovardhan, grand niece of Priyamvada, is the legal
heir. According to sources close to the Birlas, Priyamvada
wanted the estates of M.P Birla group to remain a separate
entity. There was an apprehension that if the estates
fell into the hands of another Birla, M.P. and his legacy
would be over shadowed. Hence, she chose Lodha and by
doing that, ironically the Priyamvada legacy is tending
to over shadow M.P''s legacy.
the other Birlas are crying in unison and the matter will
now invariably have to be settled in the courts The joint
Birla argument is that M.P had wished that all his money
should go to charities. The faction may also pitch in
with the argument that Priyamvada was under ''undue influence''
to make this unusual will of which the sole beneficiary
is also the executor.
counter argument is silence, silence and more silence.
He however, is gearing up for the great battle and a battery
of legal eagles have now been appointed by him. On the
''undue influence'' front, it appears that the will was
made in 1999 and subsequently, Priyamvada sent scores
of letters to Lodha which contain instructions regarding
the execution of the will. This should prove that she
was in sound mind and not under undue influence.
moot question now is; whose will and wish is it anyway?
M.P''s properties passed on to Priyamvada after his death
through his will. Now if M.P had directed in his will
that the property should go to charities after Priyamvada,
then by law it has to go to charities.
nothing of the sort is said or even a wish expressing
that the properties should go to charities is made in
the will, then Priyamvada has the right to do whatever
she wanted to do with the properties. She could have even
willed the properties to you, I or have them dumped into
the Bay of Bengal.