Mangaluru, July 30: Massive search for missing VG Siddhartha, the founder of the popular chain Cafe Coffee Day and son-in-law of former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna, is underway around the Nethravathi River bridge near Mangaluru. He was last seen on the bridge on Monday evening, according to the police.
In his statement to the police, Mr Siddhartha’s driver Basavaraj Patil said they were going to Sakleshpur from Bengaluru in a Toyota Innova - a 220-km drive - when the businessman asked him to turn towards Mangaluru.
As they approached a bridge near Mangaluru, the businessman asked the driver to stop the car and got down from the vehicle. Mr Patil, in the statement, said Mr Siddhartha asked him to drive towards the other end of the bridge and wait there.
"He said he will walk and come... At 8 pm (an hour later) I called him but his phone was (switched) off. Then I called his son and he said he’ll call him too. Later I filed a complaint," said Mr Patil, who has been driving for the businessman for three years.
Mangaluru Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil said they are checking who all Mr Siddhartha spoke to last. "A dog squad was used (on the bridge). It stopped at a point in the middle of the bridge. Local fishermen are helping in the search," Mr Patil said.
Karnataka BJP leader Jnanendra told reporters Mr Siddhartha’s father is unwell and is in a hospital in Mysuru. Another state BJP leader, Shobha Karandlaje, has written to the centre asking for help to trace the missing businessman.
"I am very shocked that our friend, a very good man, who has given thousands of jobs, is missing since yesterday night. All sorts of possibilities are there - might have got into another car, accidentally fell into water. We pray for his safety," said former Congress minister UT Khader, who had gone to the bridge over the Netravati river to see the search operation.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa visited the Bengaluru home of BJP leader SM Krishna this morning. Top leaders DK Shivakumar and BL Shankar from Mr Krishna’s former party, the Congress, also visited him. A large number of leaders and well-wishers have also gathered at his home.
News agency ANI tweeted a letter that Mr Siddhartha reportedly wrote to the management and employees of the coffee chain, expressing unhappiness over not creating "the right profitable business". "...I have failed to create the right profitable business model despite my best efforts... Every financial transaction is my responsibility... The law should hold me and only me accountable," the letter says.
VG Siddhartha’s offices were raided by income tax officers in September 2017. He is among the country’s largest exporters of coffee bean. His family has been in the coffee-growing business for more than 130 years, according to his profile page on the website of consultancy firm Mindtree, where he is a non-executive director.
He sold his entire 20 per cent equity stake in consultancy firm Mindtree to engineering and construction company Larsen & Toubro Ltd for Rs. 3,300 crore in March this year. He was also reportedly in talks with Coca-Cola to sell his flagship chain - which he founded in 1993 and has over 1,500 outlets - to the snack food and cola giant, news agency Reuters reported.