Indian coffee tycoon Siddhartha's body found, police say

Siddharta founded Coffee Day, India's biggest coffee shop chain, which now has about 1,700 outlets across the country.

    Indian police confirmed they have found the body of VG Siddhartha, chairman of Coffee Day Enterprises, India's largest coffee shop chain [Shailesh Andrade/Reuters]
    Indian police confirmed they have found the body of VG Siddhartha, chairman of Coffee Day Enterprises, India's largest coffee shop chain [Shailesh Andrade/Reuters]

    Indian authorities confirmed on Wednesday they have recovered the body of coffee baron VG Siddhartha, who was missing since Monday night, from the Nethravathi river near Mangaluru in the southern Karnataka state.

    Siddhartha, the founder of the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) chain, was not reachable since late 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 VG Siddhartha," a police officer told Reuters.

    His family has been notified, the officer added.

    Siddhartha was travelling to Mangaluru, a port city about 350km from India's tech hub of Bengaluru, when he had asked his driver to wait for him on a bridge while he went for a walk, a police official had told Reuters. When Siddhartha did not return, the driver alerted the police.

    Television channels had shown rescue workers in rubber boats scouring the Nethravathi river near the bridge where Siddhartha, who hails from a coffee-growing family, was last seen.

    Siddhartha's disappearance spooked investors, dragging Coffee Day Enterprises shares 20 percent lower on Tuesday. They fell another 20 percent on Wednesday.

    Some Indian media reports speculated Siddhartha was under pressure over outstanding debts. A letter, purportedly written by Siddhartha, had blamed an unnamed 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," Siddhartha purportedly wrote in the letter, which was available on social media and published by Indian media.

    The authenticity of the letter could not be confirmed.

    "The investigation in the case of VG Siddhartha and Cafe Coffee Day arose from the search in the case of a prominent political leader in Karnataka," a statement from the Income Tax department said, without naming the politician.

    "It is based on the unearthing of a credible evidence of financial transactions done by CCD in a concealed manner."

    Coffee Day went public in 2015, nearly two decades after opening its first cafe in Bengaluru. The company has about 1,700 outlets, 10 times more than Starbucks runs in the nation, according to the National Restaurant Association of India.

    Siddhartha, who began his career as an investment banker, had sleepless nights when Starbucks entered India, according to an article he wrote for the Outlook magazine in 2016.

    He had a “miserable moment” when Coffee Days stock tanked at its debut, giving him “quite an ego blow,” he wrote in the column.

    SOURCE: News agencies