Leela Scions to Fo­cus on Restor­ing Fi­nan­cial Health

Late Capt Kr­ish­nan Nair’s sons — Vivek and Di­nesh — are in talks to sell as­sets

The Economic Times - - Companies - OUR BUREAU

With the death of Cap­tain Kr­ish­nan Nair, the founder and chair­man emer­i­tus of Ho­tel LeelaVen­ture, the onus will be on sons Vivek and Di­nesh to re­store the ho­tel chain’s fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and keep suit­ors such as ITC at bay. Vivek, chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, and Di­nesh, co-chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, are cur­rently in the midst of ne­go­ti­at­ing a sale of as­sets and a bridge loan for meet­ing the com­pany’s re­quire­ments. In a state­ment last month, the com­pany had con­firmed that it was try­ing to off­load as­sets, which may in­clude the Delhi and Chen­nai prop­er­ties, to pare debt, pegged at .` 4,700 crore. The ho­tel chain last paid a div­i­dend to share­hold­ers in 2011.

ITC holds a sig­nif­i­cant 12% stake in the ho­tel chain through in­vest­ment com­pa­nies. The pro­mot­ers have a 62% stake, but over 90% of it is pledged against loans.

Their predica­ment is sim­i­lar to that of the Oberois of EIH some years ago. They even­tu­ally roped in Mukesh Am­bani of Re­liance In­dus­tries as a white knight to act as a buf­fer against ITC. Will Leela need a white knight? At the time of the launch of the New Delhi property in 2011, Capt Nair had said that he would en­list the help of Am­bani in case he felt threat­ened by preda­tors.

In a later con­ver­sa­tion, Capt Nair said son Vivek had ac­tu­ally writ­ten an email to Am­bani apol­o­gis­ing for the un­in­vited of­fer. Am­bani had said the se­nior Nair’s wish would be his com­mand.

Cap­tain Nair said Vivek pos­sessed good net­work­ing skills, while younger son Di­nesh was the op­er­a­tions man. Both tal­ents will be re­quired in abun­dance in the com­ing days for the ho­tel chain to avoid a debt trap.

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