Lodha triggered most fierce corporate battle in recent times

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Kolkata, Sep 4 (UNI) Birla Corporation Chairman Rajendra S Lodha, who died of a suspected heart attack in London yesterday, was the man who triggered perhaps the most tumultuous corporate battle in the country in recent times.

A Chartered Accountant, Lodha was the first professional to become the president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and perhaps also the only person to have claimed the legacy of a business empire which never before had been controlled by anybody outside the Birla clan.

Saddled with the authority to run the Rs 5,000-crore MP Birla Group, following successive court verdicts, Lodha had created a flutter in the industrial circle shortly after the death of Priyamvada Birla in 2004, when he applied for probate of a 1999 will, through which M P Birla's widower sought to hand over all the property to him.

The MP Birla Group has business in cement, jute, cable, auto trim and steel foundry, besides having interest in several medical and educational institutions across the country.

This set in motion a fierce legal battle in which four members of the Birla clan - K K Birla, B K Birla, G P Birla and Yashovardhan Birla - all running separate business empires, challenged the inheritance in the court.

With both sides engaging some of the best legal experts, the battle was fought in the Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court, before the claim of interest by the Birlas was finally quashed paving way for Lodha to prepare for a probate proceeding on Mrs Priyamvada Birla's will.

Lodha qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1963, securing the Dandekar Gold Medal for standing first in the final CA Examination in eastern India. He served for 40 years (1964-2004) as a senior partner in his chartered accountancy firm, Lodha and Company.

He was serving on the boards of National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), Indian Petrochemicals Corporation, SBI Life Insurance and Henkel India. He was the trustee of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in UK, Life Trustee of Bombay Hospital, and was in the governing council of Bhagwan Mahavir Memorial Samiti, New Delhi.

He had served in the Prime Minister's Council of Trade and Industry, the Board of Trade, and the Central Direct Taxes Advisory Committee. He was a director on the board of BOAO Forum for Asia headquartered in China and was the first chairman of the South Asia, Business Forum sponsored by the Asian Development Bank.

According to the sources in the MP Birla Group, both of his sons, Aditya and Harshvardhan Lodha were now in London. His body was expected to be flown to Kolkata after a post-mortem was done. The sources, however, expressed ignorance about the day the body would be brought home or the time and place of cremation.

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