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Tata Motors’ chief Karl Slym dies after falling from Bangkok hotel

27 January, 2014

Karl Slym, managing director of the country’s largest automobiles company Tata Motors, who was hired to see through a restructuring of the company, died after falling from the balcony of a hotel in Bangkok early Sunday morning.

While media reports said it was possibly a freak accident, the investigating officer has suggested it may be a case of suicide. The local police have also found a three-page note written in English but did not immediately share its content. 

Slym, who travelled to Thailand with his wife, was in the country to attend a board meeting of the Thai arm of the company and was to return to India on Sunday evening. The incident took place at the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok, where he was staying. He fell from his room at the 22nd floor and his body was found on the fourth floor, which protrudes and forms an upper base of the floors below.

The investigating officer in charge said he did not find any sign of a struggle and the window from which he fell was too small for a large man like Slym to have accidentally slipped.

His death also marks a setback for Tata Motors as Slym was seeing through a restructuring process to fire up growth in its Indian business. Tata Motors, the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in India, has been struggling to revive fortunes of its passenger cars business in the country even as its global jewel Jaguar Land Rover has been on a tear. 

Slym, former chief of General Motors India, was hired in late 2012 to restructure Tata Motors’ operations. He has initiated a multi-pronged programme titled HorizonNext project to overhaul the product portfolio.

Tata Motors domestic passenger car business currently banks on three brands—budget car Nano besides old horses Indica and budget sedan Indigo. He was been working to reposition Nano from being a no-frills cheap car by adding bells and whistles and pitching it against arch rival Maruti Suzuki’s Alto.

“I am deeply saddened to inform you about the untimely and tragic demise of our company’s managing director, Karl Slym. Karl was visiting Bangkok for a meeting of the board of directors of Tata Motors Thailand and passed away earlier today,” Cyrus Mistry, chairman, Tata Group, said in an official note.

Slym had also championed the next generation petrol engine Revotron which is expected to power bulk of the company’s offerings in the near future. At present majority of its products are strapped with diesel engines.

An automobile industry veteran, Slym has previously worked with Toyota and General Motors in various positions across geographies.

An alumnus of Stanford University and a Sloan Fellow, Slym was one of a handful of expatriate professionals who have stayed on to work in the country after moving from their international employers which deputed them to their Indian subsidiaries. 

His twitter handle read: “Britisher who just cant stay away from India!! Crazy for most sports and loves to know what’s going on everywhere!! And hearing from everyone!! MD Tata Motors.”

His last post to the micro blogging site on January 24, two days before his death, was on the Australian Open tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, which Nadal won.

Slym’s death could be second such case of a possible suicide of a senior executive of the Tata group. Last year Charudatta Deshpande, a senior communications personnel with the group’s steel arm Tata Steel, had committed suicide, over alleged harassment by top executives of the metal manufacturing giant. Later the police had booked some senior executives of Tata Steel for abetting Deshpande’s suicide.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson) 


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Tata Motors’ chief Karl Slym dies after falling from Bangkok hotel

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