NEW DELHI: While Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), which runs the Taj group of hotels, is yet to announce who succeeds Rakesh Sarna after his resignation as MD and CEO last week, the hospitality industry is abuzz with rumours of probables.
Names doing the rounds include former IHCL executive director Abhijit Mukerji, Tata Group veteran Mukund Rajan, former Trent director Zubin Dubash and former Taj executive Ajoy Misra, who heads Tata Beverages. IHCL’s board had accepted Sarna’s resignation as MD, CEO and director due to personal reasons, on Friday, though he continues as MD and CEO till September 30.
Hospitality industry insiders said Mukerji could well be a frontrunner. “He has been (former Tata Sons director RK) Krishna Kumar’s blue-eyed boy,” said a source on condition of anonymity. Sources told ETthat IHCL expects to make an announcement on Sarna’s successor in the next few weeks and has conveyed this to a few of its senior executives. The company did not respond to an ET questionnaire till the time of going to press.
Suresh Raina, managing partner, Hunt Partners, said, “Given where the organisation is today, there is a greater chance that it will be a person who is not too far removed from the Indian hospitality space.”
Sarna was appointed IHCL MD and CEO by ousted Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry in September 2014. “There were many challenges with respect to profitability, strategic decisions and the brand architecture when he (Sarna) was appointed. Many of those things have been fixed but there are still many areas yet to be taken care of. I think the search has been on,” said Raina.
IHCL had been showing signs of a turnaround but the CEO’s tenure was marred by a sexual harassment complaint levelled by a former woman employee in 2015, in which he was recently cleared by an independent panel. In February, IHCL grouped all its hotels in the current portfolio globally under a single branded house identity called Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris.