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
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting

£400 - £550 per day: Orgtel: Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting ...

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Senior Networks Architect

£65000 per annum + 15% Pension, Health, Travel & Bonus: Progressive Recruitmen...

SAP BW/BO Consultant

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW/BO CONSU...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices