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Mukesh Ambani a socialite, Anil an ascetic: Book

Last updated on: August 24, 2010 17:24 IST

Mukesh high-life socialite; Anil playboy-turned-ascetic: Book

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Dubbing Mukesh Ambani as a high-life socialite and perceived-playboy Anil as having turned ascetic, the controversial author of the Polyster Prince wonders in his new book who carries Dhirubhai's legacy as business guru or unsurpassed corruptor -- or both?

Hamish McDonald, whose book on the saga of Reliance was banned in 1998 in India after the corporate house moved court, has come out with the poser in his book -- Mahabharata in Polyester: The Making of World's Richest Brothers and Their Feud -- to be released on September 1 in Australia.

"Big brother Mukesh Ambani seemed to have learned more from his father and has often taken the upper hand in the squabbles with his brother," McDonald was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying in the book.

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Image: Mukesh Ambani (L-standing), Anil Ambani (R-standing) and their father Dhirubhai Ambani (seated) at their residence in Mumbai in November 2000.
Photographs: Jayanta Saha/Reuters
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"To say that the sibling tycoons are not close is an understatement; their feud -- personal and business -- is an extraordinary story (in) itself," according to the book's promo by the Australian publisher, University of New South Wales Press.

When contacted, the spokesperson of Mukesh Ambani-led group Reliance Industries in Mumbai declined to comment. No comments could be obtained from Anil Ambani group either.

According to the excerpts of the book by McDonald, "There was also a curious role-reversal. Mukesh had become the high-life socialite, with estimates of the cost of building his (high-rise mansion in Mumbai) Antilla getting ever larger despite his attempts to downplay them."

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Image: Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Photographs: Reuters
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Mukesh Ambani a socialite, Anil an ascetic: Book

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Commenting on the younger Ambani, the writer says: "The perceived playboy Anil was portrayed as more ascetic, making frequent pilgrimages to Hindu shrines, even journeying on foot to circle the holy Mansarovar Lake and Mount Kailash in Tibet."

"He ran daily for kilometers before dawn and stayed in cheap business hotels instead of luxury suites on his travels."

On the infamous years-long succession battle that led to the division of Reliance empire, he says that communication between them came down to stiff press comments by spokesmen and mounting number of court actions.

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Image: ADAG chairman Anil Ambani.
Photographs: Reuters
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"However, both were said to put on a display of politeness at weekly breakfasts with their mother at Sea Wind (the Ambani residence in Mumbai)."

The book, which the author wants also to be published from India, comes incidentally within months of reconciliation between the two brothers.

Recalling the story of Dhirubhai (the founder of the Reliance empire), the author asks in the book: "So what to make of Dhirubhai Ambani: revolutionary business guru or unsurpassed corruptor, or both? And how much of his legacy remains with the two business empires of Mukesh and Anil and more widely in corporate India?"

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Image: (L to R) Tina Ambani, Anil, Kokilaben, Mukesh and Nita Ambani at a function in Mumbai.
Photographs: Courtesy: Reliance Industries
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Mukesh Ambani a socialite, Anil an ascetic: Book

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As per the publisher, the author has trimmed back the first part of his previous book, The Polyester Prince, and expanded the material to focus more on the feuding brothers and offering key insights into India's transformation into a global economic powerhouse.

"Ambani saga tells a bigger story about modern India, not only as an economic powerhouse, but about the complicated link between the government and big businesses," the publisher said.

The story of how Dhirubhai started as a simple trader and rose "during an era of ridiculously strict government controls" to become one of the most powerful men in India makes one think about how much the country has changed, the Wall Street Journal said.

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Image: Reliance empire founder Dhirubhai Ambani.
Photographs: Courtesy: Reliance Industries
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"The chapters on how the brothers have fought each other and worked to expand their own empires makes the reader think about how much has remained the same," the report said.

As far as the publisher's opinion is concerned, Dhirubhai Ambani was a rags-to-riches Indian tycoon whose company Reliance is now one of India's major corporations.

"His sons Anil and Mukesh took over after his death in 2002 and the respective arms of the company are bigger than the parent ever was," it said.


Image: Mukesh and Anil Ambani.
Photographs: Reuters
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