Indian coffee magnate's body found by river

Published July 31, 2019
The body will be handed over to the tycoon's family after legal formalities are completed, said Sandeep Patil, Mangaluru police commissioner. — AFP/File
The body will be handed over to the tycoon's family after legal formalities are completed, said Sandeep Patil, Mangaluru police commissioner. — AFP/File

The body of a billionaire Indian coffee magnate who went missing amid financial troubles was found by a river in southern India, police said on Wednesday.

V.G. Siddhartha, founder of the Cafe Coffee Day chain that beat Starbucks at its own game in India, was last seen Monday next to the Nethravathi river near Mangaluru and reported missing soon after by his chauffeur.

Authorities launched a major search operation, and a fisherman found the body on the bank of the river.

“Siddhartha's body was found early this morning,” Sasikanth Senthil, deputy commissioner of South Karnataka police, told AFP “We have sent his body for post mortem analysis now and are awaiting results.”

The body will be handed over to the tycoon's family after legal formalities are completed, said Sandeep Patil, Mangaluru police commissioner.

Patil said an investigation was underway to determine whether Siddhartha took his own life.

Siddhartha — whose family have been in the coffee business for 130 years — opened his first Cafe Coffee Day store in 1996 and went on to become one of the world's biggest coffee traders.

The chain has more than 1,700 stores, mainly in India, but also in Malaysia, Egypt, Czech Republic and Austria, employing more than 30,000 people.

Police said Siddhartha left Bangalore late Monday, telling his family he was going to a hill resort but instead asked his driver to take him to Mangaluru.

He ordered the driver to stop the car and started walking along a bridge as he talked to someone on his phone before disappearing.

Siddhartha married a daughter of S.M. Krishna, a former foreign minister and chief minister, making him one of the country's best-connected tycoons.

But his empire came under pressure after tax authorities launched raids on company offices in 2017. Reports said Siddhartha was in talks with Coca-Cola about selling a major stake.

In a letter to the Cafe Coffee Day board, the 57-year-old chairman had admitted mistakes in handling his financial affairs.

But he said he had suffered pressure from lenders and harassment from Indian tax authorities.

“My intention was never to cheat or mislead anybody, I have failed as an entrepreneur,” he said in the letter, which was dated July 27.

Opinion

Border deaths
21 Apr 2021

Border deaths

Will the rulers be moved by the sight of Zamyad drivers dying of hunger?
Embracing informality
Updated 20 Apr 2021

Embracing informality

There are many cities that have experimented successfully in legalising and managing the street vendor business.

Editorial

More mishandling
Updated 21 Apr 2021

More mishandling

By its bad decision-making and weak management, the govt has allowed the TLP to garner more importance and heft than it deserves.
21 Apr 2021

Declining FDI

THE sharp decline in FDI in recent months is worrisome. New State Bank data shows that FDI has plummeted by a hefty...
21 Apr 2021

The digital divide

IN the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Inclusive Internet Index report, measuring internet inclusion in terms...
Media blackout
Updated 20 Apr 2021

Media blackout

A free flow of information is the best way to counter rumour-mongering and fake news.
20 Apr 2021

Gas utilities’ reluctance

THE government has ‘ordered’ state-owned gas companies SSGC and SNGPL to remove impediments hampering the...
20 Apr 2021

Saudi-Iran talks

EVER since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, ties between Tehran and Riyadh have been increasingly strained,...