The death of this great entrepreneur brought into the foray his two sons Mukesh Ambani, the elder, and Anil Ambani, the younger, both business graduates from top B-schools, Stanford and Wharton. Public speculation was rife that all was not well between the two brothers. There was a market scare that what an ill-educated man had built would now be broken apart by educated men.
In November 2004, Mukesh Ambani in an interview, admitted to having differences with his brother Anil over ‘ownership issues.’ The family owned business enterprise which had operated smoothly was now under threat with the passing of the baton to the second generation. The world was astonished that a man of Dhirubhai’s vision had failed to notice the differences between his sons and failed to make provisions for it with a will.
A subcontinent that thrives on melodrama began each day scouring the newspaper for news on the Ambani saga. Besides lots was at stake here and the public which were shareholders in Reliance Industries stood on tenterhooks awaiting the result of this bitter battle between the brothers.
The control of the Ambani Empire accounted for 6 percent of India’s market capitalization and constituted 10.7 percent of the Bombay Stock Exchange’s sensitivity Index. The dispute went on for seven months. The dispute generated considerable interest in the country, with 1,370 minutes of prime-time television being devoted to it.
Dhirubhai’s wife Kokilaben Ambani intervened and finally on June 18, 2005 the dispute was settled with Mukesh getting control over Reliance Industries (RIL) and IPCL while Anil got control over Reliance Infocomm, Reliance Energy and Reliance Capital. Kokilaben was confident that her husband’s foresight and vision and values combined with her blessings would guide her sons to scale new heights.
The split worked and led to the Indian business having two conglomerates instead of one. Still the question remains on everyone’s mind if the sibling rivalry has been put to rest now that the two boys have their own toys. The Reliance saga has been instrumental in showing the role of families in modern business, and the role of a conglomerate as a business model.