MUMBAI — It was a display of sibling devotion for the record books.
Earlier this week, Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, intervened to prevent his younger brother Anil Ambani from going to jail by writing a very large check.
Mukesh, 61, helped Anil, 59, pay $67 million toward outstanding debt the day before a court-imposed deadline. Without the payment, Anil had faced three months behind bars.
The development marked the latest twist in the long saga of India’s wealthiest family. More than a decade ago, the two brothers feuded over the empire created by their father and parted ways in a rancorous split.
They have come together on important family occasions, including the lavish wedding of Mukesh’s daughter Isha in December. The nuptials featured a private performance by Beyoncé, and the guests included former U.S. secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John F. Kerry.
Mukesh Ambani heads Reliance Industries, a petrochemicals-to-retail conglomerate. His fortune is estimated at $54 billion, according to Bloomberg News, and he lives in his own 27-story skyscraper in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.
His younger brother Anil, chairman of Reliance Group, has been far less successful. His wealth has decreased to $300 million, about a tenth of what it was in 2008, and his businesses are saddled with debt. He also has become enmeshed in a political controversy over a deal to buy fighter planes from France.
Both brothers sought to win a piece of India’s fast-growing telecommunications industry. Mukesh’s low-cost cellphone service, Reliance Jio, began in 2016 and gained millions of subscribers. Meanwhile, Anil’s business struggled and accrued debts, including to Ericsson, a Swedish telecom giant.
On Monday, Anil’s troubled telecom venture, Reliance Communications, paid $67 million to Ericsson, clearing its obligations. It had earlier deposited $17 million with the court for payment to Ericsson. Asked whether Mukesh had provided all or part of the $67 million, a spokesman for Reliance Communications said he did not know.
The money came from Mukesh in a personal capacity, said a spokesman for Reliance Industries. He also did not confirm the amount.
Whatever the precise figure, Anil expressed deep gratitude to Mukesh.
“My sincere and heartfelt thanks to my respected elder brother . . . for standing by me during these trying times, and demonstrating the importance of staying true to our strong family values by extending this timely support,” he said in a statement. “I and my family are grateful we have moved beyond the past.”
India’s Supreme Court had taken a dim view of Anil’s repeated delays in paying Ericsson and last month found him guilty of contempt of court.