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With coffee plantations, slick cafe outlets and eco-resorts, V.G. Siddhartha was the picture of a successful entrepreneur -- until his sudden death in 2019 revealed a tangled web of politics and debt. (© Illustration by Michael Tsang)
The Big Story

Death of the coffee king: power and money in corporate India

V.G. Siddhartha's death exposed a spiral of debt and political connections gone bad

HENNY SENDER, Nikkei Asian Review columnist | India

BANGALORE -- In early 2019, around six months before his body was retrieved from the Netravati River in the south Indian state of Karnataka, V.G. Siddhartha met with representatives of Blackstone Group, one of the world's leading investment companies.

Siddhartha was one of the state's most successful and influential men: the founder of Cafe Coffee Day, India's answer to Starbucks. He owned 1,700 stores nationwide and 4,500 hectares of coffee plantations. He had stakes in startups, eco-resorts, banana plantations and commercial property.

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