Let us begin by saying that; it has been the most task to find information about the richest Irish person on earth or his family. Damn, it has been difficult!
And given the fact that, he is the richest Irish person in the world, nobody really knows much about this man.
Born in the year 1929; the 86 year-old man – Pallonji Mistry is the hidden billionaire of the world. Pallonji is an Irish-Indian and the Chairman Emeritus of Shapoorji Pallonji Group.
Under the Shapoorji Pallonji Group banner, he also owns Shapoorji Pallonji Construction Limited, Forbes Textiles, Eureka Forbes Limited and a list of other Subsidiaries that fall under the conglomerate. This vast empire of his is widely spread across India, West Asia and Africa.
The 150-year old company although lesser known, but has made some of the iconic structures like the in the world Reserve Bank of India buildings, Bombay Stock Exchange building, The Taj Mahal Hotels, Palace of the Sultan of Oman in Oman, and many, many more.
As of date, Pallonji is estimated to be worth US$14.7 billion (Forbes) and is the 5th richest person in India.
Other than that, with an 18.4% stake in Tata Sons, he is also known to be the single largest shareholder in the Tata Group.
For a man with such high wealth, power and position, he maintains a very low profile and is surprisingly invisible, rarely seen or heard in the public space. You will never find him giving interviews or making public appearances, and he also maintains a clean profile with no scandals and controversies.
But don’t mistake him to be the soft one, for even with his quiet persona, he is known to be the undisputed king of Tata Group and strongly commands the overall operations of the group.
A short biography titled ‘The Moguls of Real Estate’ was also written on Pallonji Mistry in a 2008 by Manoj Namburu, but the result was only 4 pages.
In 2003, he got married to an Irish born National and became an Irish citizen and gave up his Indian citizenship because the Indian Government currently does not allow dual citizenship. Although, he still resides in Mumbai.
Personally, Pallonji is fond of Ireland, only because of his love for and passion for horses. He also owns a stud farm in Pune, which is spread over 200 acres and is house for more than hundred horses.
The Mistry A.K.A “Mystery” Family..!
Evidently, little than very little is known about the personal lives of the Mistrys.
Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry was born in 1929 in an Irish Parsi family. Pallonji, the son of Shapoorji is married to Pat (Patsy) Perin Dubash, who was born in September 1939 in Dublin, due to which he converted into an Irish citizen.
His father Shapoorji had started the Shapoorji Pallonji Group and had Pallonji had begun with a very humble background as well, and literally has worked his way up assisting his father in the real estate business.
Today, he has grown his way up to become the Chairman Emeritus of the company which is now being Chaired by Pallonji’s eldest son Shapoor Mistry. In business, his simply and primary policy has always been to solve every single problem immediately, before it aggravated.
Moving on to the rest of the family, Pallonji has two sons (Shapoor & Cyrus) and two daughters (Aloo & Laila).
Shapoor Mistry, who is known to be the most flamboyant member of the family, is married to Behroze Sethna, daughter of lawyer Rusi Sethna. Cyrus, the younger son of Pallonji is married to Rohika Chagla, daughter of lawyer Iqbal Chagla. On the other end, Pallonji’s daughter Laila is married to Rustom Jehangir, while Aloo is married to Noel Tata, the half-brother of Ratan Tata.
In 2012, Cyrus Pallonji Mistry, the younger son of Pallonji was named as the 6th Chairman of the Tata Group succeeding Ratan Tata, and was also the 2nd non-Tata to be named as the chairman.
Till earlier, there were two Managing Directors who took care of the company but when Cyrus moved away to become the Chairman of TATA, and there was just one person left to be crowned – Shapoor!
Hence, six months later in mid-2013, Pallonji officially conferred upon the Chairman’s title of Shapooji Pallonji Group to his eldest son, Shapoor.
The Shapoorji Pallonji Group…!
Before we move on to their story and developments, let’s give you a gist of what the company looks like today.
With revenues worth US$8.5 billion (July 2015); Shapoorji Pallonji Group is a Mumbai-based business house largely owned by the Mistry family. The group, with strength of 58,700 employees currently holds their interests in construction, real estate, textiles, engineering goods, home appliances, shipping, publications, power, and biotechnology. Even today, Shapoorji Pallonji Group is regarded as “one of India’s most valuable private houses“.
Till 2012, it was headed by Pallonji Mistry, post which he retired and passed on the baton to his son Shapoor Mistry.
Some of their Subsidiaries also include : – SP (Shapoorji Pallonji) Real Estate, SP International, SP CMG, SP FABS, SP Infra Capital Ltd, SP EPC, SP Agri, Forbes and Co, Eureka Forbes, AFCONS, Gokak Textiles Ltd, Sterling & Wilson, Next Gen, and Forvol.
The group with their 18.4% shareholding are also known to be the largest individual shareholders in Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group.
Since their inception in 1865, Shapoorji Pallonji Group has gone on to build world-class and diverse civil and structural engineering masterpieces like factories, nuclear establishments stadiums and auditoriums, airports, giant skyscrapers, townships, roads & expressways, different types of power plants, biotech facilities, and a lot, lot more…
Their Formation & Growth…
The company was founded 150 years ago in 1865 as a partnership firm called Littlewood Pallonji. They had no idea what they would become today.
The first project the company got was of the construction of a pavement on the Girgaum Chowpatty, which they managed to complete in about six months. As small as the contract was, it still won the company a profit.
After the success of this job, the company was again presented with another opportunity of the construction of a reservoir on Malabar Hill. It was constructed at the highest point on Malabar hill and Littlewood Pallonji was one of the companies that had helped to build this reservoir. This reservoir went on to supply water to Mumbai for more than 100 years to the growing population of Mumbai.
Since then, the company gained a range of such small contracts, and their primary focus of giving-in their best helped SPG greatly, to build a solid reputation in the market.
By 1930, the group had become strong enough to win a bid to acquire one of the most challenging projects of their history so far – Construction of Mumbai (then Bombay) Central Railway station. This project was in association with the architect – Claude Batley and the Ferro Concrete Construction Company. Together, they all managed to complete the foundation within just 21 months at a total cost of₹15.6 million (₹ 1.6crore).
As a matter of fact, their work and delivery was so commendable that they were also appreciated by the then Governor of Bombay as well.
In the next 8 years, the company went on provide satisfaction to a range of giant projects, some of which included the ‘Headquarters of the Associated Cement Company (A.C.C)’ in Mumbai, ‘The Brabourne Stadium’ (designed to accommodate 30,000 people and many other amenities), ‘Dhanraj Mahal’ (commissioned by the then Nawab of State of Hyderabad), and a lot more…
Due to such giant projects by such respectable clients, not only added to their credibility but their works were now setting examples for the others as a testament to the skilled workmanship and attention to detail.
By 1973, the company had created some of the iconic projects across Mumbai such as The Reserve Bank of India, Breach Candy Hospital, HSBC Bank, Bank of India Building, Shri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha, Taj Mahal Tower (Tower constructed behind Taj Mahal Hotel), The Trident, and many more across Mumbai, which indeed had transformed into a global brand.
TRIVIA: – After the Terror Attacks in Mumbai in 2008, SPG was the one who had rushed along with the Tata’s to complete the repairs and renovation of Taj Mahal Palace & Tower which had got severely damaged by the attack.
Their quality, goes without saying was incomparable and in addition to that they religiously followed the mantra of “under promise, over deliver,” and always made sure to deliver their projects before deadline.
When your work begins to scream success, is when the world starts to come at your feet. It was then that they got their first offshore project. In 1976, believe it or not, the group’s first project outside India was for the ‘Palace of the Sultan of Oman’ in Oman.
This turned out to be the turning point for the company, and since then there has been no looking back for them.
From Desalination Plant in Oman, Barakhamba Road Metro Station in New Delhi, 1,600,000 square feet UB City in Bangalore, India’s longest Vallarpadam Rail Bridge in Kochi, Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India’s Tallest Twin Towers – The Imperial, to India’s first motor racing circuit – Buddh International Circuit in Noida, they made it all.
Their reputation and control was such that, if it was an iconic and reputed project, then it had to be them; directly or indirectly!
How Did The Son’s Take Control?
Let’s begin with Cyrus.
Now this story dates back to the 1930s! Pallonji’s father Shapoorji was given the order to build factories for Tata Motors and Tata Steel around 1930, but the problem was that JRD Tata did not have any money to pay him.
Hence, instead of money, JRD repaid the dues by giving Shapoorji with shares of the Tata Group. In a total, Shapooji received a 12.5% stake in Tata group.
Pallonji slowly started consolidating Tata family’s shareholding in the coming years by purchasing shares of Tata family members who wanted to exit the business.
Additionally, JRD Tata’s youngest brother Dorab in a fit of anger (for an unknown reason) also went on to sell his stake in the Tata Sons to Pallonji as well.
This increased their stake to a total of 18.4% stake, thus making the Mistry family the largest single shareholder in Tata Sons. This share is now held equally through Sterling Investments Corp and Cyrus Investments.
Coming back, soon after Ratan Tata announced his retirement, a five-member selection committee was formed to search for the right man for the job. They even held 14 interviews from within and outside the group as well.
Many names like former Hindustan Lever chairman Keki Dadiseth, Pepsico’s worldwide chief Indra Nooyi, etc had also been popped up. As a matter of fact, even Noel Tata, Ratan Tata’s half brother’s name had also popped.
But they had clear instructions from Ratan Tata, that he wanted someone who was young, ideally in their early-to-mid 40s for the job.
On the other hand; Pallonji, the ‘Phantom of Bombay House’ spoke forcefully and made a strong pitch for an insider to be the next chairman, even as the search committee had begun interviewing candidates from outside the group.
Now Mistry’s and Tata’s also shared very close family and business relations since generations and they had also seen Cyrus successfully drive the SP Group as well. So according to Ratan Tata, Cyrus Mistry fit the criterion perfectly.
Hence, after a lot of speculations, with the backing of the then Chairman Ratan Tata, in addition to his father and largest shareholder in the group Pallonji Mistry, Cyrus emerged as the only consensus choice. And in December 2012, Cyrus Mistry became the Deputy Chairman of the Tata Group.
Moving on to Shapoor…
In 2012, till before Cyrus moved to the Tata’s, he was the Joint Managing Director of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, but soon after the move took place, the place got vacant.
For almost six months, the position was left vacant, after which Pallonji decided to take the leap, and gave the complete control of the group to Shapoor and moved out.
Going by their style, there was literally no noise, no display, no ceremony about the news. As a matter of fact, the media too, got wind of the news only a month later.
Now Pallonji was a man who followed the policy of solving every single problem immediately, before it aggravated and all the contracts undertaken by the group were executed with a personal touch, which made them different.
But Shapoor was a ‘Strategist’ and had a different focus in mind. He began the process of revamping the group for a global role, wherein various group firms would be re-branded, along with a new logo, and a new tagline saying – ‘Built to Last’.
The purpose was to bring things under a single fold and to further strengthen the group’s activities.
The Present Success…
In 2014, the elder son of Pallonji – Shapoor, who had last year take over the seat of the Chairman of the Group has begun the restructuring of the Group’s infrastructure businesses and in the last six months itself, he has lead to the mergers of two Group companies as well.
This includes the merger of ‘Afcons Infrastructure International’ with ‘Afcons Infrastructure’ and ‘Universal Mine Developers’ with ‘Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital Co’.
According to Shapoor, a merger of these two companies with larger entities will give the Group a better focus.
By the end of the year, in an attempt to acquire office buildings some of the biggest cities across India, Shapoorji Pallonji Group also announced an alliance with Toronto-based ‘Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’, which manages a pension fund of C$193 billion ($181 billion).
More recently, to boost the game in Ireland, Shapoor Mistry has also become an official partner of Cricket for that Country via 10-year sponsorship deal. According to the young chairman, this is deal is also a symbol of his gratitude towards Ireland.
Lastly, the present year is also the 150th anniversary of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, and iin an attempt to grow even bigger, their real estate arm has recently partnered with Standard Chartered Private Equity and the Asian Development Bank in a $200 million venture to build 20,000 affordable homes.