In the spirit of truce arrived at with his elder brother, Anil Ambani on Tuesday dropped a Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100-billion) defamation suit against Mukesh Ambani in the Bombay high court.
“Yes, we have withdrawn the suit claiming Rs 10,000 crore as damages”, a Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group spokesman told PTI.
The defamation suit was filed by Anil Ambani in September 2008 shortly after Mukesh’s RIL put a spoke in his attempts to acquire South African telecom giant MTN that year.
RIL had sent a legal notice to MTN asserting its right of first refusal on stake in RCom, a move that forced the Anil Ambani group to drop plans for a merger with the South African mobile company.
Incidentally, the defamation suit was dropped within days of RCom deciding to offload 26 per cent stake in a strategic sale.
Anil had dragged his brother to court, alleging that Mukesh had defamed him in an interview to New York Times (dated June 15, 2008) that was reproduced in two leading Indian newspapers.
The NYT quoted Mukesh as saying that a network of lobbyists and spies were overseen by his brother before they split.
“What most distinguishes Reliance from its rivals is what Ambanis friends and associates describe as his ‘intelligence agency’ a network of lobbyists and spies in New Delhi who they say collect data about the vulnerabilities of the powerful, about the minutiae of bureaucrats’ schedules, about the activities of their competitors,” the newspaper had said.
Mukesh is purported to have said in the interview that all such activities were overseen by his brother before they split, and had since been expunged from his tranche of the company.
“We de-mergered all of that,” Mukesh was quoted as saying.
The two newspapers had also been made respondents in the suit.
The Ambani brothers signed a truce agreement late last month, ending a bitter public and legal battle despite arriving at a family settlement to divide the Reliance empire in 2005 based on a formula worked out by mother Kokilaben.
As part of the truce, the two brothers decided to scrap a non-compete agreement between their respective groups, a move that would give each side flexibility to utilise resources more efficiently and enter businesses hitherto inaccessible.
They had also pledged to expeditiously renegotiate a gas supply agreement on the lines of the Supreme Court verdict of May 7.
Announcing the truce, the two sides had said, “RIL and Reliance ADA group are hopeful and confident that all these steps would create an overall environment of harmony, cooperation and collaboration between the two groups, thereby further enhancing overall shareholder value for shareholders of both the groups”.
While RCom has already announced its intention to sell 26 per cent stake, as part of efforts to raise resources, there is speculation that cash-rich RIL could also venture into telecom arena soon and may partner Venugopal Dhoot-led Videocon’s telecom arm.
The Ambanis had parted ways in June 2005, and out of four of the last five years they have been engaged in a legal row over supply of gas from Mukesh-run Reliance Industries Limited to Anil Ambani group’s Reliance Natural Resources Limited.
A spokesperson for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries declined to comment.