Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani’s high profile wife Nita Ambani, is all set to become the vice-chairman of world famous luxury hotels major Oberoi Hotels, officially known as the East India Hotels (EIH), in which the Reliance Group had bought a 14.12% for Rs 1,021 crore on August 30.
Though the vice-chairman’s post on the EIH board was not part of any deal with the Ambanis, it is learnt that the business relationship between the two is the result of the personal relationship between Nita Ambani and the Oberoi clan and the Ambanis have no interest in entering the hotel or hospitality sector.
It is also learnt that Mrs Ambani’s nomination to the EIH board would not be immediate and it was up to the Oberoi family, its owners, to offer directorships to the nominees of India’s largest private-sector company. But it would be logical for RIL, which had picked up a stake in the company with the intention of supporting its expansion by bring to bear its expertise in raising money and completing large projects, to eventually have board representation.
The EIH Board has eight directors, including its chairman PRS Oberoi, his son Vikram and nephew Arjun. The EIH board had met in Mumbai recently to discuss appointing RIL nominees on its board and future business plans.
Mrs Ambani’s presence on the board will result in fostering and cementing the relationship with the Oberoi family without making any difference in operations. With her new role in the hospitality industry, the public role of the 47- year old Mrs Ambani will increase manifold in the times to come. Married to Mukesh Ambani for 26 years, the Ambanis have three children, twins Isha and Akash, 18, and Anant, 14.
Her foray into public life began when she set up a school at Mumbai in 2003, though she is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in designing the township at Jamnagar, where RIL has built the world’s largest refinery at a single location. Located near Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla complex, the Dhirubhai Ambani International School has become a prominent fixture of Mumbai’s education landscape, particularly for its elite, many of whose children study there.
Mrs Ambani, say RIL officials, supervised the execution of projects involving setting up of schools, parks and shopping complexes to cater to over 2,500 families.
More recently, she has been involved in the group’s foray into sports. Mrs Ambani had recently joined the board of RIL’s joint venture company with IMG and manages the operations of the American sports major’s Indian arm which plans to build an academy to train coaches and athletes. Her managerial skills have been tested during her stewardship of Mumbai Indians, a team which participates in the Indian Premier League. Mumbai Indians did poorly in the first and second IPL tournaments but the team led by Sachin Tendulkar staged a comeback to emerge as the runner-up during the 2010 edition.
At RIL’s last annual general meeting in June this year, Mukesh Ambani announced that the Reliance Foundation would set up a private university. The university will also be run by Mrs Ambani.