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The Reliance Feud: A Turbulent Corporate Power Struggle


Inside the Reliance Feud: A Saga of Power, Politics, and Family Rivalry|seben capital

The Reliance Industries Feud (2005-2006)

The Reliance Industries feud between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, which unfolded between 2005 and 2006, marked a significant chapter in the history of Indian corporate governance. Reliance, one of India's largest conglomerates, was established by their father, Dhirubhai Ambani. The company had grown exponentially under his leadership, diversifying into various sectors including petrochemicals, refining, oil, telecommunications, and retail. After Dhirubhai's death in 2002, the rivalry between his sons over the control and future direction of the company came to the forefront.

The Genesis of the Conflict

The seeds of the feud were sown in the differing visions and management styles of Mukesh and Anil Ambani. The company was traditionally managed with a centralized approach, where Dhirubhai Ambani held the reins firmly. However, after his passing, the absence of a clear succession plan led to a power struggle. Mukesh Ambani, the elder son, believed in consolidating and expanding existing businesses, focusing on large-scale projects like the Jamnagar refinery. On the other hand, Anil Ambani was more inclined towards aggressive diversification, particularly into telecommunications and financial services, areas he believed could provide high growth opportunities.

Escalation and Public Fallout

The feud became public in November 2004 when Mukesh Ambani, in an interview, declared that there were ownership issues within the company, famously stating, "There are issues which are in the private domain, which need to be sorted out." This admission sent shockwaves through the corporate world and marked the beginning of a highly publicized battle. Shareholders and stakeholders were immediately concerned about the impact on the company’s performance and stability.

Division of Reliance

The conflict led to a formal split of the conglomerate in June 2005, brokered by their mother, Kokilaben Ambani. The division of assets was aimed at ensuring both brothers had control over distinct segments of the empire to mitigate conflicts. Mukesh retained control over Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), which included the petrochemicals, oil and gas, refining, and textiles businesses. Anil received Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), which included Reliance Communications, Reliance Capital, Reliance Energy, and Reliance Natural Resources Limited (RNRL).

Impact on Business Operations

The split had significant ramifications for the company's business operations. Mukesh Ambani focused on reinforcing and expanding RIL’s core businesses, especially the oil and petrochemicals divisions. This led to the commissioning of the world's largest refining complex at Jamnagar and aggressive exploration and production activities in the Krishna Godavari Basin. Meanwhile, Anil Ambani's ADAG saw rapid expansion in telecommunications and entertainment but faced challenges in execution and financial sustainability. The starkly different approaches taken by the two factions highlighted the divergent strategic visions of the brothers.

Market Reactions and Legal Battles

The market reacted with mixed sentiments to the split. While there was initial uncertainty, RIL under Mukesh Ambani soon regained investor confidence with robust performance and ambitious projects. Conversely, Anil Ambani’s ADAG faced significant challenges, including legal battles and financial difficulties. One notable conflict was the dispute over gas supply agreements between RIL and RNRL, which was resolved only after a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 in favor of RIL.

Legacy of the Feud

The feud left a lasting impact on corporate governance in India. It underscored the importance of clear succession planning and governance structures in family-owned businesses. The split also illustrated the challenges and complexities involved in dividing large conglomerates. Despite the initial turmoil, Mukesh Ambani’s RIL emerged stronger, continually expanding its footprint globally. Anil Ambani’s business empire, however, faced a decline, with many of his ventures struggling or shuttering over time.


The Reliance Industries feud of 2005-2006 was more than just a sibling rivalry; it was a battle for control over one of India’s most influential corporate empires. The split was a defining moment that reshaped the landscape of Indian business. It highlighted the critical importance of leadership, vision, and strategic alignment in maintaining the growth and stability of a large conglomerate. While RIL under Mukesh Ambani thrived and continued to grow, Anil Ambani's fortunes waned, marking a stark divergence in the legacies of the two brothers.

Written by devesh gupta

I am Devesh Gupta, a Junior Analyst at Seben Capital, where I specialize in finance with a focus on market research and data analysis. I support investment decisions by translating complex financial data into actionable insights. My role at Seben Capital allows me to contribute significantly to our investment strategies, leveraging my analytical skills to drive success.

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