Bengaluru: Business mogul Vijya Mallya, who turned 60 on Friday, is celebrating his birthday in style at his palatial Kingfisher Villa in Goa’s Candolim.
“It’s very personal. He has invited close friends and some VIPs, including a few celebraties to the villa where the birthday bash will go on over the next two days being a weekend,” said a source close to Mallya.
As the ‘king of good times’ is facing tough times, with about Rs.8,000 crore debts from his grounded Kinghfisher Airlines weighing heavily on him, Mallya decided to keep in important milestone in his flamboyant life a low-key affair and away from media glare.
“My birthday is a personal milestone. I would like my privacy to be respected on this occasion,” Mallya said in a message to an overseas news agency, ahead of the three-day bash at his Villa at the Sinquerim, a prestigious property, facing the Marquis beach off the Arabian Sea.
Known to be a royal host, Mallya has flown in popular Spanish singer and king of Latin pop Enqique Iglesias to treat the special guests with his famous songs and unique performances. For local flavour, a Bollywood nite will be a side show.
“Rooms have been booked at a star hotel near the villa for the guests till Sunday and the event has been organised to unwind and enjoy the lavish of Mallya’s hospitality,” the source said.
Though the liquor baron hinted recently in Bengaluru that he would like to retire after the age of 60, it remains to be seen if he would share any exit plans with his guests.
“At 60, normally people think of retiring and enjoying life. I am also thinking of retiring and enjoying life. There is nothing wrong in that,” Mallya told reporters on the margins of the 16th annual general meeting (AGM) of United Spirits Ltd (USL) on November 24.
Sporting a French beard and a ponytail, Mallya, however, hastened to clarify that he was not retiring as yet.
“But when you turn 60, you should think of retiring and enjoying your life,” said the Rajya Sabha independent member from Karnataka.
With his dreams of operating an international airline turning into a nightmare when Kingfisher folded up in 2012 after a flying start in 2005, Mallya lost control of his spirits business when the British spirits major Diageo bought majority stake (54.7 percent) in United Spirits Ltd (USL) in the same year (2012) and he was asked to step down from the board as chairman and board as “it had lost confidence in him”.
The London-based Diageo also appointed global audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India to do forensic investigation of USL accounts, following discrepancies, including financial irregularities, which included writing off Rs.7,200 crore from the books.
Mallya, who holds a mere 4.07 percent of equity stake in USL, has refused to step down.
The tycoon, however, continues to dominate the beverage segment, with his United Breweries Ltd (UBL) commanding about 50 percent of the beer market and its Kingfisher being a popular brand across the country.
Mallya inherited the group’s flagship company (UBL) from his father Vittal Mallya when he was 28 years in 1983 and built an empire by foraying into diversified businesses spanning from paints to fertilisers, though he exited many of them after reporting losses.
According to Captain Gopinath, who pioneered low-cost airline (Air Deccan) in the country, Mallya is a shrewd businessman who proved his mettle in the liqour industry, but failed to replicate it in other verticals he ventured into subsequently, especially into highly capital-intensive airline business.
With banks and creditors from whom he borrowed heavily to run the airline declaring him a wilful defaulter’ recently, uncertainty looms large over Mallya.