Mumbai: Billionaire Pallonji Mistry of the USD 5-billion Shapoorji Pallonji (SP) Group having its roots in the construction business died in the wee hours of Tuesday here.
Mistry, who was the single-largest shareholder in the Tata Group with an 18.37 per cent holding in the over USD 100 billion conglomerate, was 93.
India-born and educated Mistry, who had later acquired Irish citizenship, died mid-sleep at 0100 hrs at the family residence in South Mumbai, company officials said.
President Ram Nath Kovind expressed grief at the death, calling him a doyen of infrastructure and building industry. “His contribution to wealth creation and nation building will be long remembered,” Kovind said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted that he is saddened by the passing away of the billionaire who made “monumental contributions to the world of commerce and industry”.
Born in 1929, Mistry headed the privately held, over USD 5-billion SP Group having its roots in the construction business. He took the Group to markets beyond India, where it successfully delivered several marquee projects like the Palace of Oman’s royalty in Muscat, and also diversified the group which has its footprints in other businesses like real estate, textiles, shipping and home appliances.
The reclusive business icon was awarded with the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, in 2016. He joined the family business in 1947 as an 18-year-old and took over as chairman following his father’s demise.
The Tata Group stake had been passed down from his father Shapoorji Mistry, who picked up a stake in the 1930s, and Pallonji had very good relations with Ratan Tata and was well regarded in Bombay House, the Tata Group headquarters.
He is survived by four children, including Cyrus Mistry, who succeeded Ratan Tata as Chairman of the Tata Group in 2012 before being ousted unceremoniously in 2016. His daughter Aloo is the wife of Noel Tata, Ratan Tata’s step-brother.
In 2012, Pallonji stepped down as the chairman of the group, handing over the responsibility to his other son Shapoor.
A note from the Group said Pallonji “embodied the Zoroastrian virtues of ethics, integrity, fair play in all dealings” and gave back to the society “without any fanfare”.
The SP Group was founded in 1865, and has built landmark buildings in the financial capital over its 150-year existence including that of the Reserve Bank of India, HSBC, and Taj and Oberoi Hotels.
Union Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani described Mistry’s death as the end of an era. One of life’s greatest joys was to have witnessed his genius, his gentleness at work, she added.
Other ministers including Nitin Gadkari, Mansukh Mandaviya, Hardeep Singh Puri, Piyush Goyal, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Karnataka Chief Minister B S Bommai also expressed condolences.
A funeral service will be held at the Tower of Silence at Kemps Corner’s Doongerwadi at 11 AM on Wednesday morning, which will be followed by the ‘Uthamna’ ritual as per Parsi conventions later in the afternoon, officials said.