Elders help resolve damaging Jindal feud

Vol 14, PW 8 (07 Oct 10) People & Policy

As feuds go, the one ripping apart Jindal Drilling, in the best self-destruct traditions of an Indian family-run business, is not quite as epic as the gladiatorial Ambani struggle, but it’s making waves nonetheless.

So bitter has the war become for control of Jindal Drilling that ‘family elders’ have been called in to find an amicable solution to the quarrel between feuding second cousins Naresh Kumar and company scion DP Jindal. Happily, a resolution is imminent, say insiders.

This report first revealed whispers of a bust-up in January but the feud burst into the open last month on September 24 when Jindal Drilling company secretary Rajeev Ranjan released a terse seven–line statement to markets saying directors had “lost confidence” in managing director Naresh Kumar and that his powers were being “withdrawn with immediate effect.” An angry Kumar - widely recognised as the man who built up Jindal Drilling from nothing - told newspapers the next day he would fight his dismissal through the courts, and with good reason.

At stake is control of a $170m business that manages five offshore rigs: three owned by US-based Noble Drilling, but managed by Jindal Drilling, and two owned and managed by Jindal Drilling. All are on contract to ONGC, drilling offshore Mumbai, on contracts of between three to five years.

In January, the two sides appeared to have resolved the dispute amicably, agreeing that Virtue-1 and Noble Ed Holt would be managed by Naresh Kumar and son Manav, while Discovery-1, Noble Charlie Yester and Noble George McLeod would be managed by Raghav Jindal, son of company patriarch DP Jindal. But with Kumar’s surprise ouster that agreement is in shreds.

“Today,” confirms an insider, “all five rigs are managed by one company (Jindal Drilling) only.”