Ravi Mehrotra speaks at Foresight Shipping winter 2016 event of plans to reconstitute company as a Trust, by James Brewer
Foresight, one of the shipping industry’s best known groups, is planning to turn itself into a corporate trust.
Directors have had the first meeting to take the project forward. Founder and executive chairman Ravi Mehrotra gave the first public announcement of the decision in front of some 300 shipping industry people attending the company’s 2016 winter barbecue in the garden of his family home in west London.
Dr Mehrotra and his team have built up the company from scratch to an organisation with $1.5bn in assets.
He said that in the company’s 32nd year as a commercial organisation, the issue had come up as to how it would be worthy to “survive for 100 years.” He said: “That was my problem. I dwelt on it and said that the group must establish proper systems.”
This was behind the new appointment on a consultancy basis as chief executive of Richard Sadler, whose term as chief executive of Lloyd’s Register expired at the close of 2015.
Dr Mehrotra said the decision was to change the group to bring in systems of the kind for which Lloyds Register was renowned and which would suit a company that aimed to continue for many years meeting the highest standards.
As a result he requested his chief executive of many years, Anil Deshpande, and executive director of group services, Capt Flavian D’Souza, to step down from their posts. The two men will remain associated with the business.
Mr Sadler said it had been wonderful in the last two weeks to meet Foresight people and to begin working with the Mehrotra family.
Mr Deshpande and Capt D’Souza came to the podium to speak warmly of their many years of collaboration with Dr Mehrotra and their involvement with Foresight.
Further details of the Foresight reconstitution are not yet available, but it might be speculated that the structure of Lloyd’s Register could provide a template for the new format. In 2012 Lloyd’s Register Group became the trading arm of the charity Lloyd’s Register Foundation, which owns the shares of the $1bn-turnover classification society and awards grants to research and education activities.
Just about the entire industry was present: heads of associations, bankers, bunker brokers, charity executives, classification society representatives, the clergy, diplomats, designers, shipping exchange CEOs, the film industry, flag state representatives, insurance brokers, journalists and other media representatives (from all over the world), lawyers, ministers of transports and shipping, heads of organisations, P&I club representatives, regulators, seafarers, shipbrokers, shipowners and shipmanagers, traders, WISTA members – you name it.
The international shipping fraternity was led once again by the iconic Jim Davis with his wife Hanny; his International Maritime Industries Forum colleague Victoria Mott was there too. Another key figure in the shipping’world, the newly elected secretary-general of the IMO Kitack Lim was there too, a good chance to talk and congratulate him for taking over at the helm of shipping’s number one administrative body! Dr Nikos Mikelis was as ever present with his wife and also one of their three daughters Alexandra a lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright, John Gauci-Maistre from GM Economicard Group in Malta, maritime arbitrator Ken Maclean and his wife Norma, Frances Baskerville, David Moorhouse and his wife.
The Cypriots were led by Andreas Chrsysostomou, head at the Department of Merchant Shipping of Cyprus and Dr Christos Atalianis with Nicholas A. Charalambous representatives of Cyprus at the IMO; Themis Sotiriou and his wife from Yiamakis & Co Services ; Costas Yiassemides from Yiassemides & Co were there too.
Inge Mitchell despite her double operation gave a brave presence on a wheel chair! Maria Dixon the former WISTA-UK president and her husband Paul; shipbroker Wendell Abraham and his charming wife were there too! Nigel Cleave from Videotel with his wife was there. The secretary-general of Intercargo David Tongue and his wife attended, as did captain P. Mukundan head of the IMB and his wife – a good chance to get updated on the position re piracy and terrorism…Spotted Michael Everard and Mark Brownrigg…
Nautical Institute’s CEO Philip Wake, Maritime London director Doug Barrow, the Rev Canon Ken Peters, Yiotta Goussias from RS Platou in Athens, Lamros Varnavides from Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Harry Theochari head of shipping at Norton Rose Fulbright, Alice Bushell from Watson Farley & Williams, Carl Wilks from Sariza productions, Greek speaking Nigel Ready from Cheeswrights, Peter Swift and his wife many many others…
As always, there were many connections to the Indian maritime and trading world, with many of the ladies resplendent in beautiful saris and salwar kameez. Mrs Manju Mehrotra, a director of Foresight, delighted all with her radiant smile as she greeted guests alongside her husband, new CEO Richard Sadler and other directors and officials of the firm.
Philippa Wright, Dr Mehrotra’s reliable and hardworking director of legal affairs and public relations, and her team had organised as for many years this standout event, which at our rought count attracted comfortably over over 300 guests.
Ravi Mehrotra’s son Saurabh Mehrotra and son-in-law Utsav Seth with Bernie Nicely prominent with their socialising skills. Everyone from Foresight played a magnificent part in the proceedings.
Amid the chat, Rebeca Jones added the musical dynamic with her accomplished playing of the Welsh harp.
Plenty of smiles, and plenty to talk about during the evening. Unfortunately from certain standpoints the chat was less than cheery. The desperate state of the Baltic Dry Index, something that has been so significant that AllAboutShipping has been chronicling the slide daily, is weighing on many minds and on many portfolios. Can the freight rate slump be reversed? If so, how? Is the solution the ruthless slashing of tonnage volumes and further shipyard contraction, as some analysts have been urging for years? Is it too late, even if that is effected?
The concerns go deeper than that, some of the guests quietly acknowledged. Prospects are linked with hyper-volatility of economic factors, nervousness about the direction of China’s slowdown, tumbling oil and other energy prices (even though that is positive for bunker costs), geopolitical negatives, deflation, and what about the stock markets, which were crumbling as those present sipped their cocktails. One can guess that some investors were poorer by a dollar or two in the time it took to consume the tasty dishes of the day, as billions were wiped off global share values.
A great percentage of people on the shipowning and operating side were clearly maintaining their perennial optimism. Those in ship finance and company and debt restructuring, and their legal colleagues and representatives, remembered the theories of economists that depressions appear in a roughly seven year cycle (and how long is it since 2008?), and they were aware that their particular skills will be in as much demand as ever in the coming months.
As well as food for commercial matters and for the soul, a sumptuous spread of traditional Indian vegetarian food, and in a marquee annexe barbecued meats and other delicacies, went down a treat! For three or four entertaining and networking hours, the near-zero temperatures of the streets of London were out of mind and out of sight. From that point of view, roll on January 2017!