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REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade
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BAD NEWS

An Indian coffee baron has gone missing

By Sangeeta Tanwar

The founder of India’s largest homegrown cafe chain has gone missing.

VG Siddhartha, chairman and managing director of Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), has been untraceable since yesterday (July 29) evening.

“We are taking the help of concerned authorities,” Coffee Day Enterprises, which owns CCD, said in a statement to the BSE. “Company is professionally managed and led by (a) competent leadership team, which will ensure continuity of business. We will keep you posted as and when we receive further update.”

Shares of Coffee Day Enterprises fell nearly 20% on BSE in early trade today (July 30).

Siddhartha was on his way back from Mangaluru, a port city around 350 kilometers west of Bengaluru where CCD is based, according to media reports. While crossing a bridge on the Netravati river, he got off his car, asking his driver to park ahead as he wanted to take a walk, according to the Press Trust of India. After Siddhartha failed to return even two hours later, his driver reached out to the police. More than 200 policemen and divers on about 25 boats are carrying out searches for him, the news agency reported

“A person believed to be Siddhartha jumped off the bridge into the river. Search and rescue personnel have formed teams and are searching for the body,” an official from Kankanady police station in Mangaluru, told the Mint newspaper.

A letter purportedly written by him has been floating around on social media where he blames lenders and regulators for pressurising him. The letter’s authenticity has not been verified.

Various news reports have claimed that all was not well with Siddhartha as he was under regulatory scanner for a recent deal.

In March this year, Siddhartha received about Rs3,200 crore ($465 million) by selling 20.32% stake in software services company Mindtree. The deal helped him repay his debt of about Rs2,900 crore. However, post his stake sale to Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Mindtree found certain irregularities in disclosures made by Siddhartha. There was reportedly also an allegation of insider trading against him.