Tata Motors' MD Slym plunges to death from Bangkok hotel room

Karl SlymKarl Slym, the managing director of Tata Motors Ltd, fell to his death from a hotel room in Bangkok, in circumstances that seem to point to suicide. Thai police are investigating, and a post mortem will be conducted today.

Slym, 51, had attended a board meeting of Tata Motors' Thailand unit in the country's capital and was staying with his wife in a room on the 22nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel. Hotel staff found his body on Sunday on the fourth floor, which juts out above lower floors. He and his wife were scheduled to return to India on Sunday evening.

"We didn't find any sign of a struggle," Police Lieutenant Somyot Boonyakaew, who is heading the investigation, told Reuters.

"We found a window open. The window was very small so it was not possible that he would have slipped. He would have had to climb through the window to fall out because he was a big man. From my initial investigation we believe he jumped."

The police found a three-page note, written in English, which they were translating into Thai. An autopsy on Slym's body should begin on Monday.

Slym, a British national, had joined the company in October 2012 as part of a major management overhaul that also saw two other top-level appointments, and was the brainchild in the company's strategy to regain its position in the domestic market. His demise is likely to be a setback to that process.

''I am deeply saddened to inform you about the untimely and tragic demise of our company's managing director, Karl Slym.  Karl was visiting Bangkok for a meeting of the board of directors of Tata Motors Thailand and passed away earlier today,'' said Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry in a statement.

''Karl joined us in October 2012, and was a valued colleague who was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry. In this hour of grief, our thoughts are with Karl's wife and family.''

Slym led the automaker's operations in India and international markets including South Korea, Thailand and South Africa, but he did not look after the UK-based Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) luxury unit that Tata Motors acquired in 2008.

The Thai police said they were called to the Shangri-La hotel around 7:45 a.m. on Sunday after staff found Slym's body. They woke up his wife, who looked shocked when she was told what had happened to her husband.

Tata Motors had lost traction in the Indian passenger vehicle market as domestic and foreign rivals rolled out new models while it mostly tweaked existing models and offered heavy price discounts. The company has not had a hit car at home since 1998. Sales of the Nano, launched amid much hype in 2008, have been lacklustre.

Slym was among other things working on sprucing up the Nano to boost its sales. Only last week, Tata had launched a more expensive Nano Twist at Rs2.36 lakh that came with features like power steering, central locking, power windows and bluetooth connectivity.

Slym is also credited with the next generation petrol engine Revotron that would power most of Tata's coming offerings to redress the company's lack of penetration in the gasoline market.

Before joining Tatar Motors, Slym was executive vice president of SGMW Motors, China, a General Motors joint venture. Before that he had headed General Motors in India.