Missing coffee czar found dead

Missing coffee czar found dead

V G Siddhartha

Nearly 36 hours after the launch of a massive search by multiple agencies, the body of 60-year-old Cafe Coffee Day founder V G Siddhartha was traced downstream near Hoige Bazar, about five km from the Netravathi bridge by fishermen around 7 am on Wednesday.

Siddhartha, son-in-law of former chief minister S M Krishna, is suspected to have committed suicide by jumping into the Netravathi river during low tide on Monday night. Soon, a search operation for Siddhartha was launched by police after car driver Basavaraj Patil, in consultation with the family, filed a missing complaint with Kankanady police.

After the three-hour long post mortem at the district Wenlock Hospital’s mortuary, the body was taken to Coffee Day Global Unit on K M Road in Chikkamagaluru for public to pay their final respects to the coffee czar. Later in the evening, Siddhartha’s body was taken to Chattanahalli in Mudigere taluk where the final rites were conducted.

In Chattanahalli estate in Chikkamagaluru, thousands, including Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, paid their last respects.

People lined up the streets in Mudigere, Kottigehara and Banakal to pay homage to their role model. Condolence meetings were held in Kalasa, Balehonnur and Aldur. Cafe Coffee Day Estate Holdings general manager Chidambar told DH that labourers at the estates and staff of Cafe Cafe Coffee Day outlets across the country were given a holiday.

A holiday was declared to coffee curing works in Mudigere. Schools and private establishments in Chikkamagaluru were closed.

Siddhartha's mortal remains being brought to the Wenlock hospital, Mangaluru

Siddhartha was the son-in-law of former Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna. He was missing since Monday night, and was last seen from the bridge over the Netravati river near Mangaluru.

He had purportedly written a letter to the board, alleging pressure from a private equity partner and harassment by Income Tax officials. 

Founded in 1996, the company’s cafe network stands at 1,751 stores spread across 243 cities in India. The company, Coffee Day Enterprises, in which Siddhartha owned a 53% stake, had a revenue of Rs 4,466.79 crore in FY19 against a net profit of Rs 127.51 crore. However, growing debt might have been causing problems over the years, sources say. Several people close to him suggest that his sale of shares in IT company MindTree was part of his debt offloading process.

Sringeri MLA Raje Gowda said the coffee czar was harassed by the officials of the Income Tax Department. Raje Gowda spoke to DH during the search operation at Nethravathi bridge on Tuesday. The legislator, a close friend of Siddhartha, said the latter had become mentally weak after the raids conducted by Income Tax department.

However, Income Tax Department officials on Tuesday clarified that they never harassed the Coffee Day Enterprises promoter. Instead, the department had enabled him to sell his shares in Mindtree as per his wish, a senior officer of Income Tax told DH.

Siddhartha, who took the brand of coffee to a global level, was known for his philanthropic activities in Mudigere taluk. He was known for donation for many major programmes in the taluk. In spite of donating for various causes, he never used to share the stage at the programmes. He was known for his philanthropic activities, rather than in person to many in the taluk. 

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