India’s “Coffee King” Found Dead
G. Siddhartha, a tycoon who beat Starbucks to dominate India’s retail coffee industry but faced personal financial troubles, was found dead on Wednesday, the police said.
Mr. Siddhartha, whose family has been in the coffee business for 130 years, became one of the world’s biggest traders after opening Cafe Coffee Day in 1996, earning him the nickname “the coffee king of India.” The company and its subsidiaries, which recently expanded to other countries in Asia and Europe, employ more than 30,000 people.
The police had carried out an exhaustive search for Mr. Siddhartha, founder of the popular chain Cafe Coffee Day, who was last seen Monday evening on a waterfront bridge outside the coastal city of Mangaluru, in southern India. Fishermen spotted his body floating near the shoreline on Wednesday morning, The New York Times reported.
The police were still investigating the cause of death, said Hanumantharaya, a senior police official who goes by one name.
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But Cafe Coffee Day and its parent organization, Coffee Day Enterprises, were thrown into turmoil in 2017, when the Indian tax authorities raided company offices. They said they had found undisclosed transactions and illegal income, which Mr. Siddhartha denied.
This year, the company’s stock took another hit as Mr. Siddhartha struggled to pay various lenders, leading to a liquidity crunch.
Mr. Siddhartha, his wife, Malavika Hegde, and companies affiliated with them held over 50 percent of the equity in Coffee Day Enterprises.
On Tuesday, the company released a copy of a letter, purportedly written by Mr. Siddhartha, that was addressed to the board of directors. The letter, which was evidently written on Mr. Siddhartha’s letterhead and bears what appears to be his signature, said that he was facing “a lot of harassment” from the tax authorities, and that he took responsibility for “all mistakes.”