Oberoi Hotels patriarch steps down as chairman due to health issues

NEW DELHI: Legendary Indian hotelier Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi (93) has stepped down as the chairman of EIH Ltd, the flagship company of the eponymous chain of hotels, “due to his deteriorating health.” The son of group founder Rai Bahadur M S Oberoi, “Biki” — as he is known in the industry — was EIH Ltd executive chairman since 2002.

His elder brother’s son Arjun Singh Oberoi, executive director in the company for over two decades, has been appointed as the executive chairman with immediate effect, EIH Ltd said in a statement. “Biki’s” son Vikram Oberoi will remain EIH’s MD and CEO. He stepped down as chairman from EIH Ltd effective May 3, a day after doing the same from a subsidiary EIH Associated Hotels Ltd.

The group as a whole operates 33 hotels. Of them, EIH Associated has in its portfolio Oberoi Cecil, Shimla; Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur and Tridents in six cities. P R S Oberoi is credited with placing Oberoi Hotels & Resorts on the international luxury travellers’ Wishlist through the several iconic luxury hotels he opened both in India and abroad.

Bestowed with the Padma Vibhushan in 2008, he had established the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development in 1967 given his firm belief that “people are the most valuable asset of any organisation.”

Born on February 3, 1929, his vision in developing luxury hotels and his passion for “perfection in all aspects of hotel operations helped set the standard for luxury hotels around the world,” the group said in a statement, while placing “on record his exemplary dedication, passion, commitment and contribution to the company, its guests, shareholders and employees. His leadership and vision will continue to inspire and guide the organisation.”

PRS’ successor Arjun Oberoi has over 30 years of experience in the hotel industry. He has worked closely with the legendary hotelier on planning and development of a number of Oberoi and Trident hotels. One of Oberoi group’s senior most management level persons, Shib Sanker Mukherji has been appointed as EIH Associated non executive chairman from May 2.

Mukherji was vice chairman of EIH Associated till May 1. He has spent over four decades in the hospitality industry and had joined the board of EIH Associated as a director in October 1988. Kapil Chopra, who was president of Oberoi Group for five years till January 2018 and then went on to start EazyDiner and The Postcard Hotel, said: “who was At 93, relinquishment is understandable as operating on the board as chairman is a tough role considering the age.

Mr Oberoi is a living legend and an exceptional hotelier and will always be a guiding force in the company. Arjun Oberoi is a great choice as the new executive chairman of EIH. The good part is that he has worked in development and projects. There are two components to running a hotel company-development and operations.”

“The group is known for operational excellence. But, the bigger challenge has been that the company needs to open more hotels and expand across geographies. Arjun is very well liked in the organisation and he comes from the project and development side. The critical need of the hour for the Oberoi Group is that. Arjun and Vikram would be a winning combination and this is a step in the right direction,” Chopra added.