Billionaire Mukesh Ambani sets succession plan in motion by promoting his children

MUMBAI (BLOOMBERG) – Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani just got busy with the early stages of succession planning at his energy-to-technology conglomerate Reliance Industries, naming two of his offspring as chiefs of key units in his US$217 billion (S$301 billion) empire.

On Tuesday (June 28), the 65-year-old tycoon made way for his first-born Akash Ambani to become the chairman of India’s No. 1 wireless carrier Reliance Jio Infocomm. Akash’s twin sister Isha, 30, is set to be appointed chair of Reliance’s retail arm, and an announcement is expected as early as Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said.

While Reliance has telegraphed such a leadership transition, the move underscores the senior Ambani’s efforts to avert family feuds that have torn many wealthy clans apart, including his own. Bloomberg News reported last year that the mogul’s favored succession plan shares elements with that of Walmart’s Walton family, a framework that would allow the biggest transfer of wealth in recent times.

The changes at the top come at a crucial time for Reliance. In a pivot from its legacy oil refining and petrochemicals business, the conglomerate is diversifying into e-commerce, green energy and expanding its retail footprint across the country. In 2020, technology venture Jio Platforms lured more than US$25 billion from marquee Silicon Valley investors including Meta Platforms and Google. It has also unveiled ambitious plans to take on Amazon.com in the country, including streaming.

“It shows a well-planned succession plan,” said Sankaran Manikutty, a former professor who taught at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. “Ambani just ensured the continuity of the business. For now, nothing will change for the conglomerate, but Mukesh Ambani will be around to guide the next generation.”

Before their elevation, both Isha and Akash played prominent roles as directors in those units. They were part of teams that negotiated with Meta when it decided to invest almost US$6 billion in Jio Platforms. At annual shareholders meetings in recent years, the twins have introduced new products and demonstrated various technology applications such as virtual reality. Their father has credited his children with helping nudge him into the internet business.