MILAN – Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) founder and largest shareholder VG Siddhartha went missing under mysterious circumstances in the southern city of Mangalore, India on Monday night. The 58-year-old entrepreneur had been in his car on the outskirts of Mangalore when he asked his driver to stop his car at a spot close to the Netravati river.
“He told the driver to go ahead and stop and that he would come walking,” a senior police officer told BBC Hindi.
The driver waited for a good 90 minutes and then reported to the police after Siddhartha failed to return from his “walk”.
The driver said Siddhartha was talking to someone over the mobile phone when he got off from the car.
The Karnataka Police have launched a massive search operation in the area to find the missing businessman.
Based on the statement of the driver that Siddhartha may have allegedly jumped off the bridge, Mangalore City Police immediately started search operation and senior officials of district administration have also rushed to the spot.
Mangalore Commissioner of Police Sandeep Patil said two teams had been dispatched to search the river. Untill Tuesday morning, the police search had not yielded any result. Boats have been pressed into service to trace the body.
In an alleged letter, which is being circulated over social media, Siddhartha says he “failed to create the right profitable business model despite my best efforts.” However, the signatures mentioned in the letter differ from Siddhartha’s signatures in the company’s annual report in 2018.
Mr Siddhartha’s Cafe Coffee Day franchise is India’s largest coffee chain. It has about 1,750 cafes across the country and some outlets in countries like Malaysia, Nepal and Egypt.
However, local media reports said that its rate of expansion had slowed down significantly over the last two years in the face of increasing competition.
Siddhartha was recently in the news after he sold about 20% of his stake in tech company Mindtree Ltd to engineering and construction company Larsen & Toubro Ltd. Indian media reports last month indicated that Mr Siddhartha was in talks with Coca-Cola to sell a significant stake of his company, though this was not confirmed by either company.
Shares of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd plunged 20% in early trading on Tuesday.