ITC has initiated some significant board-level changes, fuelling fresh speculation about its succession plans.
The company has informed stock exchanges that the board, at a meeting on Friday, noted the retirement of Pradeep Dhobale on December 6. It has also accepted the pre-mature retirement of Kurush Grant, 57, on health grounds, with effect from January 22, 2016. The board has approved the appointment of Sanjiv Puri, currently president, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), with effect from December 6, and Rajiv Tandon, chief financial officer, as additional whole-time directors, subject to the approval of members with effect from January 22, 2016.
In 2010 and 2011, Grant, Dhobale, and Nakul Anand were inducted into the ITC board. Being the first board-level change in a decade, these moves had trigerred the speculation about ITC’s succession planning. Dhobale and Grant were said to be in the race for the top job at ITC. Chairman Y C Deveshwar’s term as chairman ends in 2017.
Grant was given the responsibility for overseeing FMCG business, while Dhobale was made the head of paperboards, paper, packaging, finance and information technology, and Anand was entrusted with hospitality, travel, and tourism at the strategy level. Towards the end of 2014, Grant and Dhobale’s roles were swapped, while Anand was given the additional charge of lifestyle retail.
Executive directors are appointed by the board and shareholders, ITC officials said. Dhobale, 59, was re-appointed by shareholders at the company’s 2014 annual general meeting. The resolution sought the re-appointment for five years. Grant was re-appointed this year. Last year, with the reshuffle in portfolios of executive directors, ITC also made some other changes. Puri, handling the Indian tobacco division, was made president of the FMCG businesses.
Analysts see it as a sign that the company is bringing in next-generation leaders.
“Sanjiv Puri has increased his involvement with various stakeholders in ITC’s decision-making process, thus signalling he is being groomed for a significant role. Hemant Malik is the chief executive of the Indian tobacco division; V L Rajesh is heading the company’s foods division. ITC is putting trust on young shoulders. Puri’s elevation should be seen in that context,” said an analyst.