ITC Ltd.’s managing director Sanjiv Puri is expected to take over as chairman due to the sudden demise of YC Deveshwar on Saturday. The appointment is likely to be made on Monday when the clmpany’s board meeting is scheduled to review and announce results for the year and the quarter ended March, said two senior industry executives. Puri was 56 and was being mentored by Deveshwar for the dual role of chairman-cum-managing director for a transition originally scheduled for 2021-22.
Puri became CEO in 2017 and managing director the following year. Deveshwar became non-executive chairman in 2017.
The move is seen as a foregone conclusion since Deveshwar had already chosen Puri for the position and was mentoring him, said one of the persons.
“Since the ITC board is meeting tomorrow (Monday), it is expected that a decision in this regard will be taken and announced,” he said, requesting anonymity.
An ITC spokesperson declined to comment.
Puri is already chairman of ITC’s corporate management committee, the highest executive decision-making body. An alumnus of IIT-Kanpur and Wharton School of Business, Puri has been a lifer with ITC much like Deveshwar. He joined the company in 1986 and rose through the ranks like his predecessor.
Between 2001 and 2006, he was MD of Surya Nepal, ITC’s joint venture subsidiary in the neighbouring country. He then led the IT business subsidiary, ITC Infotech India Ltd, as its MD till 2009 when he was appointed the divisional chief executive of the cigarette business with additional responsibility for the entire cigarette and FMCG (fastmoving consumer goods) distribution and the trade marketing vertical.
Rapid Rise in Past 5 Years
Puri’s rise has been rapid in the past five years. In 2014, he was made president of the FMCG businesses, a new position that was created to take overall charge of the entire segment comprising cigarettes, packaged food, personal care, education and stationery products, safety matches and agarbattis.
In 2015, Puri became an executive director when he was made overall in charge of FMCG, paperboards, paper and packaging and agri-businesses. In 2016, he was appointed to a new role of chief operating officer. In 2017, Puri was made the CEO, taking independent charge of executive leadership at ITC when Deveshwar retired from his executive role.
Last year, ITC’s board and nomination and compensation committee decided to extend Deveshwar’s tenure as nonexecutive chairman for two more years till 2022 so that he could continue to mentor Puri before his formal appointment as chairman-cum-MD.
Another industry executive said a professional-driven company like ITC, which has no clear promoter, is not legally required to split the role of chairman between executive and non-executive. “It was split in 2017 so that Deveshwar can step down from day-to-day management and mentor the chosen successors as non-executive chairman,” he said. “So, Puri’s appointment as executive chairmancum-MD will be as per provisions.”
Other executive directors in ITC are Nakul Anand (62), who oversees hospitality, travel and tourism and lifestyle retail businesses; B Sumant (55), who looks after cigarettes and FMCG businesses; and Rajiv Tandon (65), the company’s chief financial officer and also in charge of the investment subsidiaries.
There are nine non-executive and independent directors on the board – one representative each from three large shareholders British American Tobacco, Life Insurance Corp. of India and General Insurers’ Association of India; three ex-bureaucrats including two women directors; one retired, senior professional of ITC itself; an ex-banker and LIC’s ex-chairman, who is also ex-administrator of the Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India.