The markets had been speculating for weeks, but on Monday corporate India’s first family got into it as well. The fiercely private Ambani family matriarch Kokilaben hinted her sons Mukesh and Anil Ambani may be getting closer again.
Addressing local media in the sleepy town of Chorwad, Dhirubhai Ambani’s birthplace in Gujarat, Kokilaben said, “Woh dono mere bete hain... Dono hi aage badh rahe hain. Dono ke beech pyaar hai. Hum sab saath saath hain (they are both my sons. Both are progressing in their businesses. There is love between them. The Ambani family stands together.”
Ahead of Dhirubhai’s birthday, Kokilaben is in the Ambani ancestral village where Dhirubhai spent his early days before leaving for the Gulf of Aden.
The entire Ambani family is expected to be present in Chorwad on December 28 to inaugurate the Dhirubhai H Ambani Memorial, ‘Dhirubhaino delo’. The family’s spiritual advisor, Rameshbhai Oza, is also expected to be present.
Both the brothers are expected to be there for at least two days, starting from Tuesday. In the backdrop of this statement, investors would naturally expect some announcements. But, company officials insist that “this is purely a family event. All of them will participate in religious rituals on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning”.
Even then, observers believe the family reunion may bring the Ambani siblings closer to each other. “It will be perhaps for the first time in the recent past that the Ambani brothers will be seen together at a family reunion, which is taking place at the temple of goddess Chorwadi,” RIL Group President Piramal Nathwani said.
According to an official statement issued by RIL on Monday, the memorial will be inaugurated by the late industry patriarch's wife Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani, two sons Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, daughters Dipti Salgaonkar and Neena Kothari, along with all the other family members.
The company said the memorial would house three sections, including a pictorial gallery, the old house of Dhirubhai and an auditorium. The memorial was founded by Kokilaben.
But, the statement by the usually reclusive Kokilaben has got everybody guessing. It was she who had negotiated a settlement between the brothers after they began fighting bitterly inside and outside courts just two years after Dhirubhai passed away in 2002.
Similarly, Kokilaben is also believed to be the key catalyst behind the famous rapproachment between the two when in May last year, they decided to end their non-compete clauses.
Reliance watchers say it’s quite evident there is no longer any active hostility between the two. “Both have realised that others have been benefiting more from their fights. Both are sharp businessmen,” added a senior executive on condition of anonymity.Even though a merger between the two groups seems unlikely at this juncture, most people talk of sharing of services and resources to create a common “eco-system to benefit all”.
In telecom, for instance, there have been reports of Mukesh Ambani using the younger brother’s telecom towers or bandwidth to roll out his 4G services, in return for a fee. The tower-sharing deal will improve the business prospects and valuation of RCom’s towers and reduce the high leverage of the company. Some even suggest similar collaborations brewing in financial services.