Coffee Mogul VG Siddartha Found Dead in Indian River

Coffee Mogul VG Siddartha Found Dead in Indian River
An Indian woman exits a Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Bangalore, India on July 31, 2019 (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

The body of billionaire VG Siddharta, founder of Cafe Coffee Day, was found in the Nethravathi River near Mangalore, India, according to a report from the Times of India.

The 60-year-old entrepreneur, directed his driver to drop him off near the river so he could take a walk, in Karnataka state on Sunday, July 29, according to the BBC. He never returned.

The driver alerted authorities when Siddharta could not be located, and an extensive search was set up. On Tuesday, some 36 hours later, the body was found by a fisherman in the river, the BBC reported.

His body was identified by members of his family at the hospital. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

The board of governors of his Café Coffee Day company issued a letter to the shareholders, saying that the company will be “professionally managed and led by a competent business team” which would ensure the “continuity” of business, BBC reported.

Siddharta opened his first coffee shop in Banglore in 1996 when drinking coffee was not yet part of the Indian culture. He is credited for single-handedly transforming India’s predominantly tea-drinking culture into a more cosmopolitan lifestyle, with young urban professionals sipping on a cup of coffee at one of the company’s trendy hotspots for students and businessmen alike.

“He is singularly responsible for increasing domestic coffee consumption in India. There can be no doubt about it. In those days, we were completely dependent upon the export market and the heavy regulations on its sale,” Dr. SM Kaverappa, former vice-chairman of the Indian Coffee Board, told BBC Hindi.

In 2015 his company was worth $1,2 billion, according to Forbes, with over 1750 stores worldwide—most of them in India—successfully warding off Starbucks’ invasion during the late 90’s due to competitive pricing. Starbucks owns some 150 cafés in India.

Letter Alleges He ‘Succumbed’ to Debt Pressure

News of the businessman’s death came after his company on July 30 released a letter allegedly penned by Siddartha to the board, saying he had “given up” and had “fought for a long time.”

He was reportedly under pressure from Indian tax officials, as well as private equity partners and lenders, according to the letter, which said he was “succumbing to the situation.”

In 2017, tax authorities raided the company’s offices in several cities, and according to reports, Siddhartha recently discussed selling a large stake in the business to Coca-Cola.

“I am very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me,” the letter dated July 27 reads.

“I fought for a long time, but today, I have given up as I could not take any more pressure from one of the private equity partners forcing me to buy back shares.”

Siddhartha, who was married to a daughter of former foreign minister and Karnataka’s chief minister, SM Krishna, became the owner of the biggest coffee plantation in Asia, with around 12,000 hectares of plantations.

In the letter, the businessman requested that Coffee Day be run under new management, reported CNN Business.

Epoch Times reporter Isabel van Brugen contributed to this article.

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