Karl Slym, managing director of India’s biggest automaker Tata Motors Ltd, died after falling from a hotel room in Bangkok in what police said on Monday may have been suicide.
Slym, 51, a British citizen, had attended a board meeting of Tata Motors’ Thailand unit in Bangkok and was staying with his wife in a room on the 22nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel. Hotel staff found his body on Sunday on the fourth floor, which juts out above lower storeys of the complex.
“We didn’t find any sign of a struggle,” Police Lieutenant Somyot Boonyakaew, heading the investigation, told Reuters.
“We found a window open. The window was very small so it was not possible that he would have slipped. He would have had to climb through the window to fall out because he was a big man. From my initial investigation, we believe he jumped.”
Boonyakaew said police found a three-page note, written in English to Slym by his wife, which they were translating into Thai. An autopsy on Slym’s body was conducted on Monday, police said without elaborating.
A spokeswoman for Tata Motors declined to comment on the possible cause of Slym’s death. A company statement on Sunday said Slym had provided leadership in a challenging market environment.
Slym was driving a turnaround in the company’s domestic operations. Investors worried about potential delays to these plans after his death sent shares in Tata Motors down as much as 6.7 per cent on Monday in a broader market that fell more than 2 per cent. The stock ended 6 per cent lower.
“He had been given a sort of free hand. For another professional to step in and enjoy the same confidence, with this same management, is difficult, it will take time,” said Deepesh Rathore, director of Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors, based in Gurgaon, India.
TURNING THE CORNER
Slym was hired in 2012 to revive Tata’s flagging sales and market share in India, the world’s sixth-largest auto market by unit sales. Tata Motors is part of the sprawling software-to-steel Tata conglomerate.
“His death comes at a time when the company seems to be close to turning the corner,” said Anil Sharma, an analyst with researchers IHS Automotive. “It comes before his efforts bear fruit. We should be able to see the results in a year or two.”
Tata Motors recently introduced a new petrol engine for its passenger vehicles and was planning to launch a hatchback and compact sedan this year, the first all-new Tata-branded passenger vehicles since 2010.
Slym led the automaker’s operations in India and international markets including South Korea, Thailand and South Africa, but he was not responsible for the Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) luxury unit that Tata Motors acquired in 2008.
The Thai police said they were called to the Shangri-La hotel around 7:45 a.m. on Sunday after staff found Slym’s body. They woke up Slym’s wife, who looked shocked when she was told what had happened to her husband.
The couple had been married for about 30 years and did not have any children.