Godfrey Phillips inheritance feud

Synopsis

Samir Modi, son of late KK Modi, has taken legal action against his mother, Bina Modi, accusing her of mishandling the family’s Rs 11,000 crore inheritance. The dispute involves the distribution of the Godfrey Phillips stake and other Modi group shares. Samir, previously aligned with his mother, now supports his brother Lalit in seeking immediate implementation of the trust deed. The family had initially disagreed on dissolving the trust, leading to legal battles initiated by Lalit Modi.

supreme-court-Agencies

The rift among the promoters of Godfrey Phillips over the distribution of a Rs 11,000 crore inheritance, following the death of family patriarch KK Modi in 2019, has taken a new turn. Samir Modi, one of three children of KK Modi and brother of former Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi, has challenged his mother over her handling of affairs in the Supreme Court. This has put the brothers on the same side, ranged against their mother, in seeking distribution of the inheritance. Previously, only Lalit Modi had opposed his mother.

Samir Modi has accused Bina Modi of not distributing funds as stipulated in a trust deed executed by his father, according to sources familiar with arguments made by his lawyers at the apex court. He has also accused her of taking control of affairs at Godfrey Phillips and holding on to the purse strings of the company against the letter and spirit of the trust deed.

The inheritance includes the family’s nearly 50% shareholding in listed Godfrey Phillips, worth well over Rs 5,500 crore at current market prices, as well as shares in other Modi group firms in areas such as cosmetics, retail and direct selling. The stock closed at Rs 2,466 on Wednesday, up 9.9%. “Mrs Modi (Bina) is helming the affairs of the company now. That is at the root of the dispute,” said one of the persons.

Bina Modi’s lawyers Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas declined to comment. One of Samir Modi’s lawyers said he wants the trust deed to be implemented.

“It is our case that a family settlement, for times to come, has been envisaged where in the branches of Samir Modi, Lalit Modi and Charu Modi are to be equal beneficiaries and successors to the companies and assets,” said Simran Singh, founder Sakura Advisory.

“The position of Bina Modi is protected in her lifetime. Her role has been limited to enabling such a settlement,” said Singh.

Family feud over Rs 11,000 crore Godfrey Phillips inheritance: Samir Modi challenges mother Bina Modi in SC

Samir Modi and sister Charu Modi had originally supported their mother when she decided at a family meeting in Dubai on November 30, 2019, after KK Modi’s death that the family trust would continue, according to the sources cited earlier. At that meeting, Lalit Modi had demanded dissolution of the trust and distribution of the inheritance proceeds. He had even proposed the sale of Godfrey Phillips to distribute the inheritance.

Charu and Samir Modi had supported their mother’s wish to continue the trust, leaving Lalit Modi the lone dissenter. Bina Modi had then planned to give Lalit Modi his share to settle the dispute. But Samir Modi has now aligned with his brother in demanding that the distribution plan be complied with immediately.

As per sources familiar with the contents of the trust deed, KK Modi had proposed to divide the inheritance equally among his wife and three children. In the event of his wife’s death, her inheritance would be distributed equally among the three children, who could then pass it on to their descendants. This meant Charu, Lalit and Samir would ultimately be entitled to a third each of the family inheritance.

Caveats built into the trust deed also offered the inheritors the option to dissolve the trust and distribute the family wealth in this proportion. It also highlighted that if any member opposed the continuation of the trust, it would have to be dissolved. With Bina Modi and two of her children favouring continuation at the time, Lalit Modi took the legal route and approached courts in India and an arbitration tribunal in Singapore as his mother and siblings did not comply with his demand. Those suits have not been decided yet.

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Roy Walsh

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