Though rarely seen in Bangalore, UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya is a representative of Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha, having been elected by members of the Legislative Assembly, first in 2002 and again in 2010. Interestingly, in both elections, he registered a higher margin of victory than candidates representing major political parties. If his business rivals look at him as a “takeover specialist,” so do his political rivals, who are aware of his ability, aided by his considerable financial clout, to upset their political calculations.
Apart from his liquor and airlines businesses, Mallya owns landmark buildings in the city centre, particularly the well-known UB Mall — a 55:45 partnership with the Prestige group at an estimated cost of over Rs. 300 crore — and Kingfisher towers spread over 11 acres of land adjoining Cubbon Park. In the vicinity of this structure is the Mallya Hospital, one of the first corporate hospitals in Bangalore established in 1990 in association with the Apollo Hospitals of Chennai.
This apart, he is a major donor for the Mallya Aditi International School, and also runs Karnataka Breweries and Distilleries Ltd at Nelamangal, which brews his signature Kingfisher beer. Another major brewery is also under construction at Nanjangud near Mysore.
He first made inroads in the government sector by acquiring Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers, with a turnover of over Rs. 2,200 crore.
Yet another prime government property Mallya took over in 1991 is the 500-acre Kunigal Stud Farm, about 70 kilometres from Bangalore. An ardent racing fan, this property was leased to him. He set up United Racing and Bloodstock Breeders Ltd in 1988 to bring under a single banner his rapidly growing interests in horse racing and breeding. While he started owning race horses at the age of 21, in 1985 he started purchasing quality horses in numbers to compete at the highest levels of the sport.
From horses, car racing was a logical step: the Force India team which he acquired in 2007 now has the participation of the Sahara group led by Subroto Roy and the team has been renamed Sahara Force India. Prior to the Delhi Grand Prix last month, it was widely reported that the Formula India team was up for sale.
The liquor business is, however, his mainstay. United Breweries was bought by his father, Vittal Mallya, in 1947. Its original headquarters was at Armenian Street in Madras, where it was set up in 1915. Apart from business takeovers, Vijay Mallya is also known for purchasing Tipu Sultan's sword at an auction in London in 2004, and subsequently bidding in another auction in New York to get back some of Mahatma Gandhi's belongings.