Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani has stepped down from the role of director of the telecoms arm of Reliance Industries in favour of his son Akash, setting the stage for a leadership transition at his energy-to-retail conglomerate.
The change was disclosed in a regulatory filing on Tuesday by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, which said Mukesh’s 30-year-old son and non-executive director Akash was being appointed chairman of the board.
This is the first instance where Mukesh Ambani has officially taken a back seat, after flagging last year that his children were taking on more responsibilities. Reliance is “in the process of effecting a momentous leadership transition,” he said at an event in December.
Akash was part of teams that negotiated Meta Platforms Inc’s investment into Jio’s parent, besides leading other key acquisitions.
“This is another clear signal that Mukesh Ambani is taking the next step of redefining his involvement with the group,” said Kavil Ramachandran, a professor and executive director at the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise at the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business. “I hope he has taken care to make this a successful succession by strengthening the team around Akash Ambani.”
For years, Mukesh Ambani has studied the ways in which billionaire families, from the Waltons to the Kochs, passed on what they had built to the next generation. Recently, that process has intensified – Bloomberg reported last year – with the tycoon eyeing a blueprint for the next stage of his $217bn empire that seeks to avert the succession warfare that has torn apart so many wealthy clans including his own.
Akash Ambani, a Brown University alumnus, has studied economics. He married his childhood sweetheart, Shloka Mehta, the daughter of a Mumbai-based diamond trader and jeweler. They had a son, Prithvi, in 2020.
Akash’s twin sister Isha is a director on the boards of Jio as well as Reliance Retail, which houses the conglomerate’s ambitious bets in India’s brick-and-mortar space. She is set to be named chairman of the Reliance conglomerate’s retail unit, Bloomberg News reported citing unnamed people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified ahead of a formal statement which could come as early as Wednesday.
The youngest of the siblings, Anant, sits on the board of renewable energy and oil and chemical units of Reliance as a director.
India’s telecoms sector had been upended by the entry of Jio in 2016, which triggered a price war that forced some rivals out of the market and turned profits into losses.
Jio, which started out offering mobile teleservices, has been aggressively investing in services like internet broadband and forging ties with handset makers to launch low-cost smartphones and providing 5G services.