VG Siddhartha, the founder of India’s largest coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day, has been found dead, in an apparent suicide.
Siddhartha had been missing since Monday, last seen by his driver standing on a bridge. He had penned a letter to his board in which he wrote that he could no longer handle pressure from private equity investors and a taxation enquiry.
“I gave it my all but today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure,” local Indian media have reported the letter as reading. He referred to a “serious liquidity crunch” relating to “harassment” from tax officials and pressure from lenders.
Siddhartha founded Coffee Day Enterprises in the late 1990s, years before Starbucks made its Indian debut, building a network of 1700 outlets – 10 times the size of Starbucks. The company was listed in 2015. Current shareholders include private-equity company KKR with which has 6 per cent stake after selling a 4.25 per cent stake last February.
“We are deeply saddened by the developments and our thoughts are with his family at this time,” KKR said in a statement about Siddhartha’s death.
As news of his disappearance, and later the discovery of his body, spread, the company’s share price plunged by 20 per cent.
Last month, Coca-Cola was linked to an investment in the coffee chain which would have valued the enterprise at about US$1.45 billion. The status of that deal is unclear.
Meanwhile, Coffee Day Enterprises board released a statement to the stock exchange pledging to “ensure continuity of business”