Authorities say they have recovered the body of a coffee magnate from a river in southern India. V.G. Siddhartha went missing on Monday, sparking speculation about financial troubles.
V.G. Siddhartha, the founder of India's largest coffee chain, was found dead on Wednesday morning, 36 hours after he went missing near Mangaluru in southern Karnataka state.
Fishermen found the body of the Cafe Coffee Day founder after it washed ashore from the Nethravati river, police said. An investigation is underway to determine whether Siddhartha took his own life.
Siddhartha, 60, had left Bangalore on Monday and left his car near a bridge in Karnataka's Dakshina Kannada district.
He told his driver to wait, saying he was going for a walk near the bridge. When he didn't return for two hours, the driver notified police, police officer Sasikant Senthil said.
A well-connected tycoon
Siddhartha's family has been in the coffee business for 130 years. The Cafe Coffee Day chain operates more than 1,700 stores, mainly in India, but also in Malaysia, Egypt, the Czech Republic and Austria, employing more than 30,000 people.
Siddhartha was widely recognized for bringing the coffee shop culture to India — a largely tea-loving country — more than 10 years before global coffee shop giant Starbucks began its foray into the country.
The businessman married a daughter of S.M. Krishna, a former Indian foreign minister and Karnataka chief minister, making him one of the country's best-connected tycoons.
But his empire came under pressure after tax authorities launched raids on company offices in 2017.
Police said they were investigating a letter that appeared on social media in which Siddhartha alleged he was facing harassment from tax authorities that caused a serious liquidity crunch.
The letter, purportedly written by him, also said that he had failed to create the right profitable business model despite his best efforts and that he was facing pressure after borrowing a large sum of money from a friend to buy back shares.
News of his death has unnerved investors, with his company's stock plunging 20% on Wednesday. The shares had already slid 20% on Tuesday.
sri/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)