The ‘King of Good Times’ faces an uncertain future.
BANGALORE: The United Breweries Chairman Vijay Mallya has cultivated his larger than life image for many years: the yachts, private aircraft, palatial houses all over the world; a life most people can only dream of, and at best live it by watching it happen for Mallya.
For Mallya, the ‘King of Good Times’, it was great branding for his companies, including Kingfisher Airlines. But at a time when his various assets face the prospect of being seized by creditors of Kingfisher Airlines, to whom the grounded airline owes Rs 7,500 crore, it appears many of the luxury toys attributed to him are no longer his, reported the Business Standard.
The showpiece of his collection, arguably, was the Indian Empress — a 95-metre “megayacht” with a helipad that Mallya is said to have bought from a Qatari sheikh in 2006. The yacht, it turns out, was sold by Mallya in 2011. He now merely charters it for 30 days a year in Europe, according to an agreement valid till 2015.
A Kingfisher spokesperson said one of the main reasons for the sale was piracy in the Red Sea “which precluded the yacht from coming to India”. The only yacht Mallya now owns is the Kalizma, a vintage motor yacht built in 1906, said the report.
Private aircraft were supposed to be another indulgence of Mallya’s. But not anymore. The Boeing 727 and Gulfstream owned by his companies have both been sold. Mallya now uses an Airbus 319 CJ that he has leased from Deutsche Bank in London, and a Hawker 700 owned by Shaw Wallace, in which Mallya holds 54 per cent. The other aircraft, the company says, were sold “a long time ago” because they were old.
Mallya has also been reported to have snapped up islands at various times — from one in Lakshadweep to an island in Europe, off Monte Carlo, for which he was rumored to have paid around Rs. 750 crore. The company denied Mallya owned any property in France and added that the land in Tinnakara Island in Lakshadweep had only been leased to build a resort, which never took shape because the issue was entangled in court, said the Standard.
Other luxury possessions of Mallya’s include his vintage car collection and his stud farm at Kunigal, near Bangalore. While both are intact, the Karnataka High Court this week rapped the state government for classifying the farm as a heritage site and asked it to explore the option of constructing a rail tunnel under the farm. The court was responding to a petition by farmers challenging the authorities’ decision to change the plan to lay a railway line through the stud farm on the grounds that it was a heritage site.
Assets that UB Holdings has pledged include Mallya’s Kingfisher Villa in Goa, Kingfisher House in Mumbai and the Kingfisher brand, according to a written statement given in Parliament by Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena. The UB Group has asked the banks to release the security of Kingfisher Villa against equivalent cash collateral value, an offer the company says cannot be “reasonably denied”.
Last year, Mallya was dropped from Forbes’ billionaire list, with his net worth shrinking to $800 million from $1.11 billion in 2011. In response, Mallya had tweeted: “Thanks to the Almighty that Forbes has removed me from the so-called billionaires list… less jealousy, less frenzy and wrongful attacks.”