Pallonji Mistry, the elusive but powerful phantom of Bombay House
- Pallonji was once believed to be India’s richest Parsi and probably one of the richest Irishmen too.
- He was nicknamed The Phantom of
Bombay Houseas he wielded a lot of power at the Tata Group’s headquarters at one point in time.
- When Pallonji’s father Shapoorji was bankrolling Mughal-E-Azam, the younger Mistry was nervous about the ballooning budget, and advised his father against it.
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Abroad, the company built the places of Oman’s king and the President of Ghana. In fact, their ability to build seems to be how they ended up as one of the biggest shareholders of the Tata Group. They had started accumulating shares during Pallonji Mistry’s father’s time when Shapoorji Pallonjigroup was building factories for Tata Steel and Tata Motors – and were paid for, in shares.
These shares in the rapidly expanding group are what made Pallonji a billionaire who is now worth around $28.9 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index, which makes him the 41st richest Indian. Most of his wealth comes from their 18.4% stake in Tata Sons – which they have decided to offload following a feud.
While his own construction company has interests in India and the Middle East, he also owns the consumer goods company, Eureka Forbes — a name that most of India’s households heard when water purifiers became a thing.
At one point in time, however, Pallonji was believed to be India’s richest Parsi and also counted among the richest Irishmen too. Pallonji had given up his Indian citizenship in 2003 as he was married to an Irish woman, Patsy Perin Dubash. He however continued to reside at his sea-facing bungalow in the uptown Walkeshwar area of Mumbai.
The Phantom of Bombay House
The reticent billionaire was also nicknamed The Phantom of Bombay House due to the power he had wielded over the Tata Group’s headquarters at one point in time – though he was not ever present.
However, all his friends – be it Adi Godrej, the chairman of the Godrej Group, Deepak Parekh, the chairman of HDFC and others know him as a warm and caring person and a good host. But only a select few people have the privilege of knowing him.
Coomi Kapoor’s book ‘The Tatas, Freddie Mercury & Other Bawas' however has an interesting tidbit about him. When Pallonji’s father Shapoorji was bankrolling India’s biggest movie production, Mughal-E-Azam, the younger Mistry was nervous about the ballooning budget of the movie and the fact that it was being reshot. He tried to talk his father out of the ‘dead investments’, but the senior did not listen. However, the movie crashed all box office records of time – paying off his father’s penchant for perfection.
Pallonji’s son Cyrus Mistry seems to have taken a leaf from it. After he became the chairman of the Tata Group – a similar discord over funding expensive businesses is what led to the famous Cyrus Mistry-Ratan Tata feud – which became one of India’s long-drawn corporate battles — leading to their decision to sell off their interest in Tata Sons, that’s been held for decades.
With Pallonji’s death, the phantom of Bombay House has now literally exited the building and the business.
Cyrus Mistry's father, Pallonji Mistry passes away at 93
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