Who is India's oldest billionaire?

·2 min read
Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry at his office in Mumbai. (Photo by India Picture/Corbis via Getty Images)
Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry at his office in Mumbai. (Photo by India Picture/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry is fittingly nicknamed the Phantom at Bombay House, due to the aura of mystery that surrounds him. At 92, the reclusive Mr Mistry continues to be the oldest Indian billionaire. He is the chairman of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, which has several companies under it but is most known for its construction business.

Shapoorji Pallonji was formed in 1865, and Pallonji Mistry oversees a construction business that has a presence in India, West Asia and Africa. The Mistrys have long held a stake in the Tata Sons, which started with Pallonji’s father in 1936. Pallonji even joined the Tata Sons’ board in 1980 as a non-executive director. Pallonji’s Group now holds an 18.37% stake in Tata Sons, making them the largest shareholder. Pallonji has holdings in some of the most recognisable brands in the world, like Tetley Tea and Jaguar Land Rover. This stake has been the subject of a dispute after Pallonji’s son Cyrus Mistry’s ouster from Tata.

The Shapoorji Pallonji Engineering and Construction business is credited to have built some of the landmark buildings in Mumbai as well as in many parts of the world. This includes various banks in Mumbai’s Fort area, the World Trade Centre in Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, Coca Cola building in Bhopal, Qasr Al Alam Palace in Oman, and the Chenani Nashri Tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.

Pallonji Mistry has seen the expansion of Shapoorji Pallonji Group beyond construction and into sectors like energy, water, financial services and real estate. SP Investment Advisers, Shapoorji Pallonji Finance, Eureka Forbes, SP Oil and Gas, SP Real Estate and Afcons Infrastructure are some of its group companies. His sons Cyrus and Shapoor are actively involved in the day-to-day running of the Group’s various businesses. His daughter Aloo is married to Ratan Tata’s half-brother Noel.

Pallonji Mistry is an Irish citizen by his marriage to Patsy Dubash. He gave up his Indian citizenship in 2003. This also makes him the richest Irishman in the world, apart from being the richest man of Parsi descent. Pallonji’s family owns homes in London, Surrey and Dubai, and a 200-acre stud farm in Pune. He is known to reside mostly in his sea-facing White House-style mansion in Mumbai.

Pallonji Mistri was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2016 by Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the then President of India.

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