V.G Siddhartha, chairman of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd, speaks during a news conference in Mumbai. File photo/ Reuters
Indian authorities said on Wednesday they have recovered the body of coffee baron V.G. Siddhartha from a river in southern India, after his disappearance on Monday sparked speculation he was facing intense financial pressure.
Siddhartha, the founder of the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) chain, had not been reachable since late on Monday, his flagship entity Coffee Day Enterprises said in a regulatory filing.
“Based on preliminary reports, the police have identified the body as that of V.G. Siddhartha,” a police officer told Reuters, adding his family has been notified.
The recovery of Siddhartha’s body unnerved investors in his flagship listed entity Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd even further on Wednesday, sending the stock plunging 20% to an all-time low of 122.75 rupees. The shares had already slid 20% and hit the lower circuit on Tuesday.
Siddhartha, whose Cafe Coffee Day chain has more than 1,600 stores across the country, was widely recognised for bringing the coffee shop culture to India - a largely tea-loving country - more than 10 years before global coffee shop giant Starbucks Corp began its foray into the country.
He was also widely seen as a savvy venture capital investor, who made some prescient early investments in Indian IT services firms like Infosys Ltd and Mindtree Ltd in the 1990s.
Siddhartha was travelling to Mangaluru, a port city about 350 kilometres from India’s tech hub of Bengaluru, when he asked his driver to leave him on a bridge and drive ahead while he took a walk, a police official told Reuters. When Siddhartha did not return, the driver alerted the police.
Television channels showed rescue workers in rubber boats scouring the Nethravathi river near the bridge where Siddhartha, who hails from a coffee-growing family, was last seen.
Some Indian media reports said Siddhartha was under pressure over outstanding debt. A letter, purportedly written by Siddhartha, blamed an unidentified private equity partner for pressuring him into a share buyback, and tax authorities for “harassment” and decisions that hurt the company’s liquidity.
“I fought for a long time, but today I gave up,” the letter said, which was published by media
Reuters was not able to confirm the authenticity of the letter. Coffee Day Enterprises shared the letter with regulators but also did not comment on its authenticity.
A doctor at the Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru told Reuters that a post mortem was being conducted there on Wednesday.
'About 200 people, including policemen, coast guards, divers and fishermen are engaged in the search around the area in the river where Siddhartha is suspected to have jumped into.'
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