Murugappa family’s female heir pitches for board seat in holding firm

As per the notice calling the AGM, the general body as a special business will consider the appointment of Valli Arunachalam as a board member

By   |  Published: 12th Sep 2020  8:34 pm

Chennai: Will the promoter family of industrial conglomerate Rs 38,105- crore Murugappa Group induct a female for the first time on the board of family holding company Ambadi Investments Ltd?

The answer will be known on September 21, 2020 when the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) will be held through videoconference. As per the notice calling the AGM, the general body as a special business will consider the appointment of Valli Arunachalam as a board member.

The notice said Arunachalam had sent a notice on August 5, 2020 along with a deposit of Rs 100,000 to propose her candidature for Director’s post. The Ambadi Investments owned by the Murugappa Group promoter family is the ultimate holding company of the group.

Early this year, the US-based Arunachalam, the daughter of late MV Murugappan, had alleged that the group promoters have gender bias against women getting into family business and hence she or her sister were denied a board berth in Ambadi Investments after their father’s death in 2017.

She had laid two demands to the other branches of the Murugappa group family — give a board berth to her or her sister Vellachi Murugappan, or buy her family’s 8.15 per cent stake in Ambadi Investments at a fair value. Arunachalam had said her family also holds stakes in the group’s listed companies.

She had said that after her father’s demise, her family did not have a board representation in Ambadi Investments. Murugappan was on Ambadi Investments’ board since 1969 until sometime in 2016, when he resigned due to health reasons.

Interestingly, the unwritten ‘male only’ rule in the Ambadi Investments’ board room was there for a long time, including the time when Arunachalam’s father Murugappan was alive.

Responding to the issue, she had told IANS earlier: “My father and I never discussed this. However, I have checked with my mother and she has confirmed that my father often expressed his displeasure over the exclusion of women from the management of the family business, albeit in the face of resistance of other family members.

“There cannot be any gender discrimination for board berth. Similarly, there cannot be written or any unwritten rules whereby daughters, daughters-in-law, and sons-in-law can be denied board berth and the board membership is reserved only for the male heirs,” D Varadarajan, a Supreme Court advocate specialising in company/competition/insurance laws, had said.

Varadarajan said that Arunachalam should offer her candidature for appointment at the ensuing AGM by following the provisions of company law.