New Delhi: Tata Sons on Wednesday said it has set up a panel to search for a successor to Group Chairman Ratan Tata, who is due to retire in December 2012.
The move comes within days of elevation of Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's half-brother, as head of the $ 72 billion Group's international operations, lending credence to speculation that he would be annointed the successor.
"The Board of Tata Sons Ltd has formed a selection committee comprising five members, including an external member for eventually deciding on a suitable successor to Ratan N Tata," Tata Sons, the Group's holding company, said in a statement.
It was, however, not clear whether who the members were and queries about Ratan Tata himself being part of the search committee yielded no response from the Group's spokesperson.Tata, 72, would be hanging his boots in December 2012 when he would turn 75 -- the retirement age fixed by the group with presence in businesses from salt to software.
Earlier this year, Ratan Tata had told reporters: "I said that after (launching small-car) Nano, it will be a good time to step down. I still have a deadline for my retirement."I do have the responsibility to have a successor and both these things will take place."
The $ 72 billion Group has over 90 companies, of which 28 are listed including the country's largest software exporter TCS, India's largest auto maker Tata Motors and Tata
Steel, which is the world's fifth largest steel maker.
Although the group is over 100 years old -- founded by Jamsetji Tata in 1868 when he set up a private trading firm -- it was only in 2006 that it earned major global recognition when Ratan Tata spearheaded the buyout of Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus for about $ 12 billion.Tata followed this up with another big ticket purchase of Jaguar Land Rover, the luxury British auto brands, from Ford in 2008 for $ 2.3 billion.
Tata, who took over as Chairman in 1991 from JRD Tata, had said: "I do not want to go out on a wheelchair."
About the qualities he looked for in his successor, Tata had remarked: "It should be stated and that person should become known for filling the position and not just waiting in the wings. I know what happened in my case."
Tata Sons said in the statement on Wednesday that the Group would require someone with experience and exposure to direct its growth amidst the challenges of the global economy.
"The selection process for a prospective candidate would consider suitable persons from within the Tata companies and other professionals in India as well as persons overseas with global experience," it said.
Apart from being from Tata family, Noel, 53, is also the son-in-law of Pallonji Mistry, who according to the US business magazine Forbes, has over 18 per cent stake in Tata Sons and is widely believed to have the value system of the group, a must for being the successor.
Pallonji's son Cyrus Pallonji Mistry is on Tata Sons Board. Noel also is in-charge of Tata Investment Corporation and was responsible for Trent, the retail arm of the Tata Group.PTI