The Big Story

Fall from grace

Once celebrated as the turnaround genius, Gautam Thapar is today fighting to get back into the company that he once rescued. What led to this descent?

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When the top brass at the Thapar Group met in early 2007, it was to give the diversified group a new identity. That seemed a bit odd since companies such as Crompton Greaves (CG) and Ballarpur Industries (bilt) were well-known entities. Understandably, there was an apprehension that doing away with the parent brand would take away the strength of its constituents.

But promoter Gautam Thapar had his own rationale and he has always had his way. It had been nearly a decade since the holding company, KCTB or Karam Chand Thapar and Bros, had been split within the family. Now, the 46-year-old was keen on carving out his own identity — one that did not come with the baggage of the past. It was his way of telling the world that he had emerged from the shadows of the family and most importantly that of his uncle, Lalit Mohan Thapar.

By November that year, the Avantha group was born. The name denoted a combination of — avance standing for advance in French and sthapna in Sanskrit meaning establishment.

The story doing the rounds was that tha stood for the first three letters of Thapar, though nothing could be farther from the truth. It was no more than a coincidence and like most good stories, has sustained over time. Avantha was meant to express “growth with stability.”

The suave and articulate Gautam had already made his mark as someone with the ability to turn around troubled businesses. At the time of rebranding, he had led BILT’s acquisition of Sabah Forest Industries, Malaysia’s largest pulp-and-paper company for $261 million. Brimming with confidence, which could be mistaken for audacity, Gautam had become the promoter of a $3 billion group, with presence across paper, power transmission, food processing and chemicals.  

A decade later, the glory of the past seems remarkably distant. Cut to the present and you have 58-year-old Gautam, who is in the midst of his biggest crisis ever. Ousted by the board of his flagship, CG Power and Industrial Solutions, following a series of fina

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