Just when industrialist Anil Ambani seemed set for a three-month jail term for failing to clear crores in dues owed to Swedish service provider Ericsson, his brother – Mukesh – on Monday stepped in to save the day.
With the help of his brother’s “timely support”, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications made a Rs. 458.77-crore payment to Ericsson just a day before a deadline set by the Supreme Court could expire on Tuesday. The debt-laden billionaire was grateful.
“My sincere and heartfelt thanks to my respected elder brother, Mukesh, and Nita for standing by me during these trying times, and demonstrating the importance of staying true to our strong family values by extending this timely support,” a late-night statement addressed by Anil Ambani to his brother and sister-in-law read. It said the support had come from his brother in “trying times”.
The statement from Anil Ambani, whose businesses in the telecom and power sectors ran into heavy debt over the years, also said that he and his family were “deeply touched” that they had moved “beyond the past”.
The bonhomie between the two brothers has not always been this strong. They had engaged in a bitter public battle after their father, Dhirubhai Ambani, died without leaving a will in 2002. Although they eventually split his businesses between themselves, with Anil Ambani taking power and telecom and his brother keeping the oil and petrochemical businesses, a dispute continued over a business commitment between the two. The economic divide also grew in the meantime, with Anil Ambani falling into debt and Mukesh rising to become the richest man in Asia.
The first signs of a thawing of relations came about when their mother, Kokilaben Ambani, brokered a peace agreement between the two in May 2010. A few months later, Anil Ambani withdrew a Rs 10,000-crore defamation suit filed against his brother over comments published in a New York Times article. Earlier this month, Anil Ambani and his wife – Tina – attended the wedding of Mukesh’s son, Akash, with Shloka Mehta in Mumbai along with a host of high-profile personalities. He had earlier attended the wedding of his niece, Isha, with industrialist Anand Piramal.
The Supreme Court had held Anil Ambani in contempt in February, warning that he and two Reliance Communications employees will be sent to prison if they fail to clear Ericsson’s dues by March 19.
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