Raj Obeyesekere booted out of DCSL board

Mr. Rajpal Obeyesekere, a founder director of the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka PLC who has served on its board from its inception as a nominee of Milford Exports (Ceylon) (Pvt) Ltd, which is DCSL’s largest single shareholder with 41.49% of its equity has ceased to a director of the company with effect from Jan. 26, 2015.

Asked why Obeyesekere had ceased to be a board member from January as retirements are normally effective from the end of the financial year on Mar. 31, DCSL Chairman Harry Jayawardena pointedly asked the shareholder who raised the question "Are you one of his relations?" at the company’s annual general meeting last week.

Receiving a curt "No" answer, he said that the directors of the company, presumably Milford, had decided that he should not continue on the board.

Jayawardena and the co-founders of Stassen, the late Dr. V.P. Vittachi and Messrs. Obeyesekere and Zaki Alif, have been locked in litigation over the company for several years and it is well known in business circles that there is bad blood between them.

Vittachi (now his heirs), Obeyesekere and Alif control slightly under 50 percent of Stassen while the ownership breakup between Jayawardena and the rest at Milford is 60-40. Vittachi’s elder daughter, Sonia, is not party to the ongoing litigation as her father was before his death.

Earlier this year Alif ceased to be a director of Lanka Milk Food (CW) PLC, the second largest shareholder of Distilleries with 12.65% of its equity, for not attending three consecutive board meetings of the company.

Sources close to him said that he had not attended the meetings because "he had no wish to be insulted."

Alif for religious reasons declined to serve on the DCSL board from inception but Vittachi and Obeyesekere served on the board, the former as chairman for many years until Jayawardena who had previously served as managing director for nearly two decades was elected chairman of the DCSL group in 2006.

Jayawardena’s son, Hasitha, has joined the DCSL board from Nov. 21, 2011. He is among the top 20 shareholders f DCSL with over 1.88 million shares and was wished well by a shareholder at last week’s DCSL AGM.

According to the DCSL report, Obeyesekere had also ceased to be on the board of Periceyl (Pvt.) Ltd., a group company, with effect from April 17, 2015, Melstacorp Ltd. from Feb. 20, 2015, and Madulsima Plantations PLC (w.e.f. from July 23, 2015). Alif too had ceased to be a director of this company from the same date.

Obeyesekere remains a director of Balangoda Plantations PLC, a DCSL company.

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