Coffee Day Enterprises Limited, the owner of India’s largest coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day, said in a regulatory filing on Friday that its deceased owner, VG Siddhartha, routed Rs 2,693 crore out of the company, Bloomberg reported. These transactions were first revealed in a note, following Siddhartha’s suicide last year.
Siddhartha made subsidiaries of Coffee Day pay advances to a firm controlled by his family, so he could “probably” buy back shares held by private equity investors, repay loans and pay interest on other loans he had borrowed, the company said in a filing with the BSE following an investigation it carried out. The precise amounts of these transactions cannot be ascertained, the company said.
Siddhartha pledged personal assets, including those of his family members. “The personal assets/shares of Late. V.G. Siddhartha were hypothecated/pledged for business loans of the Company and its subsidiaries,” the filing said. “He also gave personal guarantees for the Company and its subsidiaries and also provided the personal guarantee of his family members.”
The company will seek to recover Rs 3,535 crore from VG Siddhartha’s closely held firm, Mysore Amalgamated Coffee Estates Limited, according to the filing. Of this amount, Rs 842 crore is due to be paid to to the subsidiaries, leaving an outstanding balance of Rs 2,693 crore. Coffee Day Enterprises also said that Siddhartha had left a debt of Rs 7,200 crore by March 31, 2019, but this has now been pared down to Rs 3,200 crore.
“We are broadly agreeable to the statement made by VGS [in his suicide note] that he failed to create the right profitable business model despite his best efforts as it was created largely out of high cost borrowings and PE [private equity] investments carrying high rate of returns,” the firm said. It added that Siddhartha may have felt pressurised by due to persistent reminders from investors and lenders.
Coffee Day Enterprises said there is no documentary evidence to show that harassment from Income Tax officials played a part in Siddhartha’s death by suicide. However, there might have been a serious liquidity crunch due to the shares of Mindtree Limited that the Income Tax Department had attached, it said. This serious liquidity crunch compromised Siddhartha’s ability to borrow further, Coffee Day Enterprises said.
The company also said that Siddhartha’s team and the senior management were aware of the manner in which he carried out transactions. It said this view had been corroborated by Siddhartha in his note.
Malavika Hegde, a director in Coffee Day Enterprises and Siddhartha’s wife, said on Saturday that she is “resolutely committed” to the future of Cafe Coffee Day, The Times of India reported. She said that though the company’s challenges are far from over, it plans to sell some more of its investments to reduce its debt.
Siddhartha, the son-in-law of Bharatiya Janata Party leader SM Krishna, went missing on July 29 last year. His body was found on the banks of the Netravati river, near Hoige Bazaar in Mangaluru, two days later. It was reported that the 60-year-old had jumped from a bridge.
In a letter that surfaced hours after he went missing, Siddhartha said financial troubles and harassment by Income Tax authorities had led him to “succumbing to the situation”.
On August 26, the Mangaluru Police said that forensic reports confirmed that Siddhartha died by suicide. Earlier that month, Coffee Day Enterprises had pledged a probe into any financial transactions that may have led to Siddhartha’s death.