Elder brother wins India's battle of the billionaires

A long-standing dispute between India's wealthiest siblings over the price of natural gas ended yesterday after the country's highest court ruled in favour of the richest of the two brothers.

For five years Mukesh and Anil Ambani, two of India's most powerful industrialists and once listed respectively as the fifth and sixth richest people on the planet, had contested the details of a deal under which gas was sold between them. In 2005, Mukesh had agreed a deal to sell gas to the younger brother's company at half the rate set by the government.

As the price of that natural gas rose, so 53-year-old Mukesh sought to nullify the agreement, saying that it had never been approved by the government. Yesterday, the supreme court agreed with the elder brother, effectively ruling that the Indian government alone has the right to fix the price of such natural resources.

"Today the court has unambiguously ruled that the government is the absolute owner, the constitutional owner, the sovereign owner of gas," the government's lawyer, Mohan Parasaran, told reporters outside the court. "It has got the absolute right to regulate the sale of gas."

The ruling is important for a booming country hungry for energy and where the production of oil and gas has been slowed as a result of the family disagreement. Beyond that it marks the latest turn in the twisting story of the acrimonious relationship between the Ambani brothers, two men, so some commentators have claimed, who have been allowed to put their own interests ahead of those of the country.

The falling out between the pair followed the death of their father, Dhirubhai Ambani, one of India's first major tycoons but a man who died without a will.

The late industrialist's widow brokered a deal between the two brothers to split the business empire, with the oil and gas interests going to Mukesh, while the power, telecommunications, entertainment and financial services elements went to Anil.

As part of the deal, Mukesh agreed to provide cheap gas from the Krishna Godavari basin off India's east coast, which his company operates, for his brother's power generation interests. The elder brother sought to breach the deal, once the rising cost of gas and oil meant he was going to lose out.

For Mukesh, currently listed by Forbes magazine as the fourth richest man and said to be worth $29bn (£20bn), yesterday's court ruling means he could gather even more money. Reuters reported that he could be in for a considerable windfall, with his Reliance Industries estimating it could make $11.5bn from the gas it has agreed to sell at the government fixed price. Reliance Industries has previously estimated that by selling the same gas at the rate agreed in the 2005 deal the company was set to lose $5.4bn.

Anil, 51, worth an estimated $14bn and listed as the 36th richest person, is expecting his Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to be hit badly by the ruling. Last July, he reportedly told shareholders that the gas supply contract was a "primary asset".

Such has been the animosity between the two brothers that Mukesh moved out of the Mumbai mansion that the joint family had shared. He is now completing a 27-storey tower in a prime location of the city that will be one of the most expensive private homes ever built.

Feuds and family fortunes

*Sports brand rivals Adidas and Puma were owned by the same family of German cobblers until feuding brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler split the company 60 years ago. The argument is said to have been triggered in 1943 during a bomb raid, when Adi insulted the Allied forces but Rudi believed the comment was aimed at his family.

*In 2007, the widow of Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli accused her daughter Margherita de Pahlen of 'betraying' the late businessman's will. De Pahlen had filed a lawsuit against three of the family's advisers over her inheritance. She lost the court battle in March.

*Luxury department store Liberty heir Elizabeth Stewart-Liberty angered rival dynasty members in 1997 by leading a rebel shareholder bid to oust the chairman.

*Last month, the widows of American auto trader brothers Mark and James Clair Jr were in court accusing two other Clair brothers of trying to bully them out of a $20m fortune after their husbands' deaths. The trial continues.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HRO - £70k+ ote

£35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...

Recruitment Genius: IT Assessor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

Recruitment Genius: Senior and Experienced iOS / Android Developers

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Senior and experienced iOS/Andr...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - IT Managed Services - £65,000

£35000 per annum + OTE £65,000 +Pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A fantastic opportuni...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital