No one spells corporate vicissitude like Vijay Mallya. Once upon a time he ran India’s largest spirits company, breaking new ground with an airline that served food that customers raved about and easily being the most flamboyant and stylish Indian tycoon ever. Now, he faces possible deportation from the UK, where he fled after leaving a trail of unpaid debts, his airline closed and his liquor firms sold.
Mallya, whose business was driven by the success of Kingfisher Beer and other alcohol brands, made his presence felt across sporting arenas like cricket with the ownership of Royal Challengers Bangalore, an IPL cricket team, Force India, a Formula 1 Grand Prix racing team, and dozens of champion thoroughbred racing horses.
The airlines company, which was launched in 2005, proved to be his undoing, as its business model floundered in 2008, when a global recession and soaring fuel prices brought it to a grinding halt. Kingfisher Airlines went from being a disruptive airline to turning insolvent in 2012, with planes being seized and thousands of employees, and creditors being left high and dry. The last year saw Mallya battling extradition and government charges of fraud from London.
Mallya, who is accused of owing banks Rs 90 billion, has publicly offered to make good on his debts and says in public announcements that he has been doing so since 2016. Regardless, after months of legal back and forth, the Westminster Magistrates courts in the UK ruled in favour of Mallya’s deportation to India. While counter-appeals are likely, the journey is nearing an end, and there’s a strong possibility that Mallya will be brought back to India.