Currently, Trusts has just one representative on the board of Tata Sons —Venu Srinivasan, who is the vice-chairman of the foundation. Noel, 63, was appointed a trustee of the philanthropic organisation in February last year. “I won’t be surprised if Noel comes on the board of Tata Sons,” said a person close to both Ratan Tata and his half-brother. “They are closer than before.”
Noel had backed Ratan Tata in the battle against Cyrus Mistry, former group chairman and his brother-in-law. The senior Tata is also believed to be close to Noel’s three children, who work in the conglomerate. Another person close to the two brothers said the Trusts is thinking of nominating Noel on the board of Tata Sons.
In an e-mailed reply to TOI, the office of Ratan Tata said the chairman of Tata Trusts “does not wish to comment”.
Tata Sons’ Articles of Association states that Trusts can nominate a third of the directors on the board of the company as long as it holds at least 40%. Trusts, a cluster of more than a dozen charitable organisations, owns 66% of Tata Sons.
Currently, there are eight directors at Tata Sons, with half of them being executive/non-executive directors, including chairman N Chandrasekaran. Three are external/independent directors and Srinivasan, who is also the chairman of TVS Motor Company, is a non-independent director at Tata Sons.
If Noel comes on the board of the main investment company, then he will be the only member of the founding family to occupy a seat on the panel of both Tata Sons and parent Trusts. Noel’s mother Simone was a director of the second main investment company, Tata Industries, till she retired in 2006.
If the changes are made at the core investment company, it needs to be seen how the leadership dynamics will play out at the broader Tata Group, said an industry observer. The Parsi community, to which Noel belongs, and some Tata veterans such as Noshir Soonawala, have been lobbying with Ratan Tata for a Tata family member to be on the board of the holding company of the $113-billion automobile-to-aviation conglomerate.
Apart from Noel, Pramit Jhaveri, also a trustee, is being considered by Trusts to be appointed on the board of Tata Sons. A former Citi India head, Jhaveri was inducted into the board of Trusts in February this year.