VG Siddhartha dead: Body of missing billionaire found on river bank in India

Chairman and founder of Cafe Coffee Day chain wrote letter days before disappearance saying ‘I have failed as an entrepreneur’

Adam Withnall
Delhi
@adamwithnall
Wednesday 31 July 2019 07:40
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Body of missing billionaire VG Siddhartha found on river bank in India

The body of the founder of India’s largest coffee shop chain has been found on a river bank after a huge search effort, police said.

VG Siddhartha, chairman of the Cafe Coffee Day, disappeared near the Netravati river in Mangaluru on Monday after telling his driver he wanted to go for a walk.

Graphic images of the body of the tycoon, known as India’s “Coffee King”, were aired on some local TV channels, while videos posted to social media showed a host of cameramen standing over the body on a river bank.

Police said the body was found by a fisherman early on Wednesday morning and that it was confirmed to be that of the missing businessman. “We have sent his body for post mortem analysis now and are awaiting results,” said Sasikanth Senthil, deputy commissioner of South Karnataka police.

The disappearance of Mr Siddhartha had attracted huge attention in India, where high-profile business tycoons are largely venerated.

His company, Coffee Day Enterprises Limited, held an emergency board meeting on Monday and shared an already widely-circulated letter signed by Mr Siddhartha in which he said he was in debt and that he was being harassed by unnamed tax officials.

It had been reported in Indian media that Cafe Coffee Day’s rate of expansion had slowed significantly in the last two years, and that Mr Siddhartha had been in talks with Coca-Cola over a buyout.

In the letter, dated 27 July and verified by police, Mr Siddhartha referenced the company’s apparent internal financial struggles and said: “I have failed as an entrepreneur.

“My intention was never to cheat or mislead anybody,” he added. “I would like to say I gave it my all. I am very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me.”

Police confirmed Mr Siddhartha was last spotted on a bridge over the river. An investigation was under way to determine whether he took his own life, according to Sandeep Patil, Mangaluru police commissioner.

In a press release shared with India’s stock exchange, Coffee Day Enterprises Limited said the company was “shocked by this development and our thoughts and prayers are in support of his family and loved ones”.

It also noted that the company was “professionally managed and led by a competent business team” which would “ensure continuity of all business operations”. Shares in the company on the Mumbai Stock Exchange dropped 20 per cent shortly after the release.

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