Tata Group successor a 'surprise choice' - Indian media

Cyrus Mistry Cyrus Mistry will be the second chairman from outside the Tata family

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Cyrus Mistry, named as the replacement for the outgoing chairman of Tata group of companies, Ratan Tata, is a "surprise" choice, Indian media say.

Mr Mistry, a current director of Tata, will spend a year as deputy chairman under Ratan Tata until he takes over the reins in December 2012.

He is the son of businessman Pallonji Mistry, who owns 18% of Tata Group.

Mr Mistry's family is India's seventh richest with a net worth of $7.6bn (£4.9bn).

Tata, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, is India's biggest company with a value of about $98bn, and has interests including telecoms, engineering and science.

The 143-year-old group has more than 100 companies in more than 80 countries, employing 425,000 people.

Mr Mistry, 43, has said he was "deeply honoured" by the appointment. He is the youngest son of construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry.

'Low profile'

"Surprise pick Mistry to succeed Ratan Tata," headlined Mint newspaper.

"The younger Mistry is a surprise choice to head a conglomerate whose complexion has changed in the past two decades in which [Mr] Tata has been its chairman," the newspaper wrote.

"Some of the surprise regarding [Mr] Mistry's appointment may have to do with his low profile within the group (he became a director of Tata Sons in 2006) and the fact that he is almost unknown outside it."

The newspaper said Mr Mistry will be only the second person without the Tata surname to head the group (after Nowroji Saklatvala in the 1930s).

However, Mr Mistry does have a Tata family connection - his sister is married to Mr Tata's half-brother.

"Dark (young) horse Mistry named Ratan Tata's successor," headlined The Indian Express.

"The selection of Cyrus in a surprise ... Who suggested the name of Cyrus?," the newspaper quoted an unnamed "long-standing Tata watcher", as saying.

It said that corporate watchers were also "highlighting" that Mr Mistry "lacks the experience in running big listed companies".

"Mystery Ends, Mistry Begins," headlined The Economic Times.

Ratan Tata Outgoing chairman Ratan Tata is widely credited with the group's success

"Reclusive, low-profile and little known outside the construction business, Cyrus Mistry was the surprise choice of the Tata Sons selection committee which plumped for the construction tycoon and overlooked the claims of Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's half-brother and Cyrus's brother-in-law," the newspaper said.

The newspaper wrote that Mr Mistry's elevation had come at a "critical moment in the group's history".

"Having expanded rapidly through overseas acquisitions in the past 10 years, the group's businesses are now facing headwinds from the slowdown sparked by the global sovereign debt," The Economic Times said.

RM Lala, who has written a book on the Tata group, told the newspaper that he was "a little surprised" by Mr Mistry's appointment.

"I expected a Tata name to be there. But if the new successor sticks to Ratan Tata's principles, it won't affect the group," Mr Lala was quoted as saying.

Business Standard described Mr Mistry as a "soft-spoken, humble person", who "believes in collaboration" and who "wants to keep employees in good humour".

The Telegraph wrote that "the most striking aspect of this keenly awaited and widely debated appointment is that Ratan Tata has chosen a successor who is in his own mould - unassuming, shy and untested in running a mammoth conglomerate".

Ratan Tata, 73, was appointed chairman of the group in 1991, and led the takeover of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus in 2007.

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