Followup: Tata Exec Likely Committed Suicide

Tata ExecThai police investigating how Tata Motors Managing Director Karl Slym died said he had an argument with his wife on the eve of his death. We reported this story last week in the Car Pro newsletter.

Police said preliminary evidence indicated that the 51-year-old Englishman, who was in the country to attend a board meeting of the company’s Thai unit, committed suicide.

Slym, a former General Motors executive, was found on Sunday, having fallen out of a small window from his suite on the 22nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok, according to police.

His wife Sally went to bed after the argument and learned of her husband’s death after being awoken by authorities the next morning, Police Lieutenant Somyot Boonnakaew, who’s leading the probe said, citing her testimony.

A letter found in the deceased executive’s hotel room was written by her after the fight, Somyot said. She expressed her feelings to her husband through a letter, as advised by a family counselor to avoid quarreling, Somyot cited her as saying. Somyot saidthat Slym’s wife didn’t suspect murder.

Police are awaiting details from the autopsy report and forensic evidence from the room before concluding the investigation, he said.

Slym, who joined the company in 2012 after a 17-year career at General Motors Co., was in charge of Tata Motors — except for the Jaguar Land Rover business — and sought to spur demand for the Nano car by repositioning it as a second vehicle.

Slym, who was born in Derby, England and began his auto career at Toyota, was beginning to make long-term changes at Tata. His death creates a leadership vacuum at the automaker, which is grappling with falling market share in a shrinking domestic industry.

Tata Motors relies on its Jaguar Land Rover unit for the bulk of its profits. The shock of Slym’s death rippled across India’s car industry.

While the company has yet to decide on who will lead the India business, Slym’s successor will face the choice of building on a 16-month effort that has yet to bear fruit or change course.

“This is terrible news for Tata Motors,” said Deepesh Rathore, director of New Delhi-based Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors. “The domestic business at Tata Motors is in bad shape, and Slym was just laying the groundwork for new models, new initiatives and those were yet to deliver any results.”

It will take at least six months to find a replacement for Slym, and his successor will probably then have to draw up a new strategy for Tata Motors, he said.

The board of directors will probably meet in the coming week to discuss succession, said Minari Shah, a spokeswoman for Mumbai-based Tata Motors.

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