Parmeshwar Godrej was among the most recognisable faces of the locks-to-soaps giant Godrej group, but she had little or no shareholding in her family’s listed firms at the time of her death. The wife of group chairman Adi Godrej did not own a single share in Godrej Industries and Godrej Properties. In the third group firm, Godrej Consumer Products, she owned just four shares.
Though the latest shareholding pattern of Godrej Industries mentioned her among promoter group shareholders, there are no shares against her name.
Godrej Properties doesn’t count her among the promoter shareholders, though she had a long association with the latter as a non-executive director since 1989. The realty firm informed the exchanges about her demise on Wednesday.
According to Ministry of Corporate Affairs records, she had only one other directorship, that was in her charity firm Heroes Aids Project, which in partnership with Hollywood star Richard Gere and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had taken up the cause of fighting AIDS in India.
Analysts said while it is difficult to generalise, individual holdings are not of much significance as promoter holdings are controlled through multiple firms, HUF (hindu-undivided family) and other structures. “The market tends to look at the promoter group as a whole. It would be interested in individual holdings only in one scenario: that is if there was a dispute,” said research head of a domestic brokerage. He added that chances of wives getting significant holdings are much higher in first generation businesses than in those with a long heritage and multiple family branches.
Group executives declined to comment. The story of Parmeshwar, a Sikh girl from a middle class background married into a Parsi industrial family, provides a contrast to other business wives, who held significant shareholding in their family firms at the time of their death. When she died in March 2015, Sarala Devi Birla, wife of BK Birla, held 67,900 shares in Century Textiles. The shares were trading at Rs 600-level, making the holding worth about Rs 4 crore.
When Priyamvada Birla, the widow of BK’s cousin Madhav Prasad, died in 2004, her holdings worth a few thousand crores were widely followed because of the bitter court battle between the Birla family and chartered accountant RS Lodha over the will. Parmeshwar’s contemporaries such as Maureen Wadia, who was an airhostess before getting married, and Kokilaben Ambani continue to hold significant shares in Bombay Dyeing and Reliance Industries, respectively. In fact, Wadia’s 97-year-old mother in law Dina Neville Wadia holds 4.58 lakh Bombay Dyeing shares, filings with the exchanges showed.
A July report by Ambit Capital on succession planning had discussed the Godrej group as among the good examples. “While Adi Godrej remains the chairman of the group, he had hired a facilitator for succession planning in 2009. Today, Godrej Consumer is led by a professional managing director (Vivek Gambhir), while other companies in the group like Godrej Properties are led by family members (Pirojsha) who have earned their role. Senior leadership at group companies consists of professionals like Gambhir at GCPL, Mohit Malhotra at Godrej Properties, who have been hired by the family,” Ambit said. The generation of Adi, brother Nadir and cousin Jamshyd had started diluting their holdings much before the facilitator was appointed. An Economic Times news report of 2006 suggested that Parmeshwar had sold whatever shares she had in Godrej Industries by 2006.
Adi himself has only 500 shares in GCPL and no direct holding in the other two listed firms. In an interview to the The Hindu in May, he said, “First of all, we insist that family members who are professionally qualified can join and others can be shareholders but they can’t work in the company. Even family members join as management trainees and rise with others. We have a succession plan for everyone and not just family members but for all senior people in the group. But these are things that are private and confidential.”