An obituary message for Yes Bank founder chairman Ashok Kapur, who fell to terrorists’ bullets in the 26/11 attacks, was carried in a “tiny blink-and-miss paragraph” in the company’s audit reports published five months later, claims a new book.
Kapur, who owned 12 percent of the bank’s shares, was a regular at the Trident-Oberoi hotel in Mumbai, kept an office there and had come to dine with his wife at the Kandahar restaurant on November 26, 2008.
Caught at the wrong time at the wrong place, as the terrorists entered the hotel and moved around, he and his wife Madhu had got separated. That turned out to be a fatal mistake for him. While she was led out by security officers with a group of other guests, he got caught in the shootings, says the book “Yes Man: The Untold Story of Rana Kapoor”.
“Five months after Kapur died, Yes Bank would summarise its annual operations for the financial year and put together its annual report, as required by all listed companies, which consisted of a director’s report, balance sheet, financial statements, disclosures and more,” writes author Pavan C Lall.
“Buried on the bottom of page 25, in a tiny blink-and-miss paragraph under ‘Directors’, was a brief note,” he says.
“Your directors express profound grief on the sad demise of Mr Ashok Kapur, Non-Executive chairman of the Bank on 28 November 2008. Your directors place on record their immense appreciation for the outstanding services rendered and the significant contribution made by Mr Kapur through the board and corporate governance roles, in his capacity as the first Non-Executive chairman of Yes Bank,” the book quotes the note.
Lall says that was it. “No memorial photograph, no retracing of his role in how he helped set up the bank or how he was the first promoter-chairman at Yes Bank. Only the bare minimum for the man who brought (Rana) Kapoor into Yes Bank and gave his career a new life when it had come to a grinding halt thanks to premature exits at his earlier jobs,” he writes.
According to Companies Act stipulations, a company is required to do the bare minimum by way of notification but there are no restrictions when it comes to paying tributes, honour or congratulations to senior management, the book says.
“In the same report, Yes Bank’s management could have given Kapur a befitting send-off but opted not to do any of that. When Yes Bank first made a public offering of its equity shares, its prospectus was approved by SEBI. In it the term ‘promoters’ included both Ashok Kapur and Rana Kapoor.
“But there was no mention of his co-brother-in-law in the CEO’s letter to stakeholders, which as always was accompanied by a full page self-portrait,” it says.
Yes Bank was born in 2004 and soon became the fourth-largest private bank in the country, with approved permissions to operate in Singapore, London and Dubai.
But years later, skeletons began tumbling out of the Yes Bank lockers. Stories of the bank’s reckless lending were going around, and allegations of bribery and corruption became rife.
Ultimately, in March 2020, the bank ran out of money, and customers were unable to get their own savings out of their accounts. The bank’s promoter Rana Kapoor was arrested, and multiple agencies began what is still an ongoing probe.
“Yes Man” is the story of Rana Kapoor, and his Icarus-like flight that eventually led to the Yes Bank crisis. From starting out as a junior employee at Bank of America to leading a bank worth billion, Kapoor’s rise and fall is a case study in ambition, greed and deceit, publishers HarperCollins India said.
Lall details not only Kapoor’s journey, but also raises questions about the banking system, its regulators and even the business environment that led to a point of no return for Yes Bank.
Krishan Chopra, publisher at HarperCollins India, says the story is about blind ambition but also frailty and tragedy.
“Yes Man” is a case study for bankers, regulators and the savings account holders on what can go wrong when greed and blind ambition takeover banking, says senior commissioning editor Sachin Sharma.