You're your father's biggest mistake: Cyrus Poonawalla in scathing e-mail to Muthiah Ramaswamy

Pune billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla’s biting correspondence with Tamil Nadu cement czar MAM Ramaswamy’s adopted son is the racing circle’s newest tittle-tattle

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, the high profile former chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), certainly believes in calling a spade a spade.

Dr Poonawalla says it straight
Dr Poonawalla says it straight

In an email communication earlier this month — that mid-day is privy to — Poonawalla fired a salvo at Muthiah Ramaswamy, the man at the helm of the 103-year-old Chettinad Group and adopted son of the late MAM Ramaswamy, telling him that the late industrialist, racing enthusiast and politician thought he was the “biggest mistake”.

The late Dr MAM Ramaswamy, (right) Ramu’s adopted son, Muthiah
The late Dr MAM Ramaswamy, (right) Ramu’s adopted son, Muthiah

MAM or Ramu as he is called, passed away on December 2, bedridden and having lost control over businesses that spanned cement, engineering, minerals and healthcare.

When Muthiah wrote to Poonawalla, an old friend of Ramu, requesting that he send a three-minute video tribute that would be included at the condolence meeting held on December 11, Poonawalla shot back a fiery response.

He wrote: “I was a very close friend of your father, and although you very correctly asked me to send a two-three minute video, expressing my thoughts and tributes to Dr MAM Ramaswamy, I regret to do so because the request comes from you, whom he hated and in fact died as a broken-hearted man for having ill-treated him, especially since you were not his legal or biological son and inherited huge assets. He said, ‘It was the biggest mistake of my life’, which he admitted to me a few months ago. I am very sorry to have written this offending letter to you, but this is the factual position with all those millions of people who knew Ramu.”

Ramu and wife Sigappi Aachi adopted Ayyappan and named him Muthiah. After the death of Sigappi Aachi in 2006, bitterness surfaced between the two.

In June this year, Ramu, who belonged to one of Tamil Nadu’s most affluent Chettiar families, had held a press conference at his 100-year-old mansion in Chennai, declaring he had disowned Muthiah, and, instead was appointing his nephew A C Muthiah as custodian of his property. In August last year, Ramu had to step down as Chairman of his group company, Chettinad Cements after an AGM passed a resolution that he should not be reappointed director.

The South racing circles have been abuzz over the email, which was leaked to some members. Poonawalla said on the phone from Pune, “I am surprised that this email communication has gone viral. This is a personal matter so it is unethical to pursue it.”

He did admit though that, “There was no further reply from Muthiah Ramaswamy after this mail.” Poonawalla explained, “What really set me off was that he called him his ‘beloved father’ in the email. If he had simply said ‘late father’, I would probably have reacted differently.” He added after a pause, “I know that the mail has been received well in certain circles, but since Muthiah didn’t choose to revert, let’s drop it.”

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