VG Siddhartha Cremated At His Estate In Chikmagalur, Karnataka
Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha, who was pulled out dead from a river two days after he went missing, was cremated at his estate in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, on Wednesday.
Siddhartha, who died aged 59, is survived by his wife Malavika Hegde and two sons—Amartya and Ishaan.
At the cremation attended by hundreds, Amartya lit his father’s funeral pyre after the last rites were performed according to the Vokkaliga traditions. Amartya broke down several times while performing the rituals.
Former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna, father-in-law of Siddhartha, and his wife Prema too fought hard to control their emotions. Karnataka's new chief minister BS Yediyurappa, his predecessor HD Kumaraswamy and several political leaders were also present at the funeral.
Earlier, on Wednesday morning, Siddhartha's body was pulled out from the Nethravathi river near Mangaluru by local fishermen and patrolling policemen after 36 hours of an intensive search. The body was identified by his friends, said Sasikanth Senthil, deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada district.
The search involved multiple agencies, which scoured the waters under a river bridge, where Siddhartha was reportedly last seen on Monday evening, officials said.
After the post-mortem at Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru, his body was taken to Siddhartha's home district of Chikmagalur for people to pay their last respects.
A police official said "everything" points to suicide in the VG Siddhartha death case, but nothing can be ruled out until the investigation is over. "Investigation is going on. Prima facie every thing points out to that (suicide) only. But we still we can't rule out anything. We will have to finish the investigation.”
Also read: The VG Siddhartha Whodunit
On Monday evening, Siddhartha left Bengaluru for Sakleshpur in Hassan district in an SUV. On the way, he asked his driver to drive towards Mangaluru.
Some time later, he stopped the car at a river bridge and stepped out, telling the driver that he was going for a walk. When he didn’t return after more than a couple hours, the driver informed the local police.
A massive search, involving over 200 police personnnel and boats, was subsequently launched in the river and nearby areas to track him down.
On Tuesday, a fisherman claimed he saw someone jumping off the bridge.
Photos of a letter, purportedly written by Siddhartha, surfaced on social media on Tuesday, soon after news of his disappearance broke. While the authenticity of the note is yet to be established, it showed that the Cafe Coffee Day founder was under “tremendous pressure” from lenders.
"I have failed as an entrepreneur," Siddhartha said in the unverified letter.
Siddhartha said he had fought for a long time, but "today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure from one of the private equity partners forcing me to buy back shares, a transaction I had partially completed six months ago by borrowing a large sum of money from a friend". "Tremendous pressure from other lenders lead to me succumbing to the situation.”
He also alleged of harassment from a previous director general of the Income Tax Department, a contention that the taxman vehemently denied, saying that Siddhartha had admitted to holding black money after income tax raids were conducted against him and his companies.
The Income Tax Department also questioned Siddhartha’s signature on the letter, saying it didn't match with those on documents submitted with it by the CCD founder.
Also read: VG Siddhartha: Trapped By Debt
Coffee Day Sale
According to media reports, VG Siddartha was in talks with The Coca-Cola Co. to sell his Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd. for $1.45 billion. The deal has not been officially confirmed by either side.
Siddhartha holds a 32.75 percent stake in Coffee Day Enterprises—a holding company for several businesses, including Cafe Coffee Day that has 1,650 outlets across the country. A unit of private equity firm KKR & Co. owns 6.07 percent of the company, while Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys Ltd., has a 2.69 percent stake.
Coffee Day Enterprises on Wednesday named Independent Director SV Ranganath as the interim chairman of the company to replace Siddhartha. The company's board, wherein Siddhartha's wife Malavika Hegde is also a director, met on Wednesday to put in place a working structure of the company.
The board appointed "SV Ranganath as the interim chairman of the board" and "Nitin Bagmane as an interim chief operating officer (COO) of the company," Coffee Day Enterprises said in a regulatory filing.
It also constituted an executive committee comprising Ranganath, Bagmane and CFO R Ram Mohan that will explore opportunities to deleverage the Coffee Day group.
(With inputs from PTI)