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Mumbai’s biggest landowners, the Godrej family, in a dispute over property

India has a few well known Parsi business dynasties such as the Tatas, Mistrys, Wadias, Poonawalas and more. Among the better-known ones is the 122-year-old Godrej group, which has diverse business interests ranging from a consumer goods company to an animal feed & agricultural business, and have even ventured into aerospace business. However, what they are most famous for is being Mumbai’s biggest private land owner with vast tracts of land in the north eastern suburb of Vikhroli.

The Godrej group owns 3,400 acres of land in Mumbai, the country’s most expensive property market. Over 3,000 acres of this land is in Vikhroli with a total development potential of close to ₹ 1,00,000 crore or ₹ 1 Trillion. Of this, about 1,000 acres can be developed; another 1,750 acres is covered with mangroves and will not be developed because of environmental concerns and the other 300 acres has been encroached upon. It is because of this very land that an inter-family dispute has developed between its members which could lead to a restructuring of the family’s land holdings.

Group Chairman Adi Godrej and his brother Nadir Godrej are on one side, while their cousins Jamshyd Godrej and Smitha Godrej Crishna form the other faction. The crux of the issue appears to be the concentration of the family’s land holdings in its unlisted holding company Godrej & Boyce, which is controlled by the Jamshyd and Smitha faction, and its commercial exploitation by the group’s listed arm Godrej Properties, which is managed by Adi and Nadir Godrej.

The conflict may be as much a clash of business strategy as a difference of personalities.

While the Adi and Nadir side of the family would like to develop the land through their listed entity Godrej Properties and have even publicly stated their intention of becoming one of the biggest real estate developers in the city; the Jamshyd and Smitha faction is believed to be against excessive development.

The business empire is structured in such a way that group companies from both sides have minority stakes in each other, and have representations on each other’s boards. And while there may be a disagreement between the two factions on the surface, a source close to the family was quoted as saying “there is no visible public dispute, they attend board meetings and are very cordial towards each other”.

Both the groups however have hired the best legal minds to represent and advise them with Investment banker Nimesh Kampani and top corporate lawyer Zia Mody representing the Jamshyd and Smitha Godrej camp, while Cyril Shroff of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Uday Kotak the CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank are helping the Adi and Nadir side of the family.

We hope the disagreement can be resolved amicably with no need for division of assets between family members such as those of the Reliance or Bajaj group of companies.

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