Cyrus P. Mistry (43) will be crowned chairman of Tata Sons – and king of the Tata empire – when Ratan N Tata formally retires in December 2012 on reaching the age of 75.

Considered a dark horse, Mr. Mistry is at present Managing Director of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group. He is also on the board of Tata Sons, the holding company which controls the Tata Group.

One of India's largest conglomerates with interests in diverse sectors such as telecom, automobile, engineering and hotels, the group is worth more than $70 billion dollars. Mr. Ratan Tata has been its chairman since 1991.

Mr. Mistry is the youngest son of construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry, who also owns a significant stake in the group.

The naming of Mr. Mistry ends months of intense media speculation ever since a five-member search panel was constituted in the middle of last year to spot a successor. A unanimous choice of the committee, Mr. Mistry pipped to the post Noel Tata, younger half-brother of Mr. Ratan Tata, long considered a favourite.

The transition process has been set in motion with the appointment of Mr. Mistry as the Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons at a meeting of its Board of Directors in Mumbai on Wednesday. Mr. Mistry has been on the board of Tata Sons since August 2006.

In the next one year, Mr. Mistry will work as an understudy of Mr. Tata, before eventually taking over from him when the latter retires.

Reacting to his nomination, Mr. Mistry said, “I feel deeply honoured by this appointment. I am aware that an enormous responsibility, with a great legacy, has been entrusted to me. I look forward to Mr. Tata's guidance in the year ahead in meeting the expectations of the group.''

Mr. Mistry is a graduate of civil engineering from Imperial College of London, and has a Master of Science in Management from the London Business School.

“The appointment of Mr. Cyrus P Mistry as Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons is a good and far-sighted choice. He has been on the board of Tata Sons since August 2006. I have been impressed with the quality and calibre of his participation, his astute observations and his humility. He is intelligent and qualified to take on the responsibility being offered,'' a release quoted Mr. Ratan Tata as saying.

The caption for the photograph accompanying this report was corrected for a factual error