Part of R-Infra’s 6.95 lakh sq ft office adjacent to WEH could soon house the fourth campus of Whittle School and Studios, based in Washington DC Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) is in talks to lease out part of the Santacruz headquarters of its subsidiary, Reliance Infrastructure Limited (R-Infra), to Whittle School and Studios, an educational institution based in Washington DC. Earlier this month, ADAG chairman Anil Ambani had told a UK court that his net worth was zero and that he was bankrupt. Ambani is being sued by three Chinese banks for a loan default of around Rs 5,000 crore by Reliance Communications (RCom), another subsidiary of ADAG. R-Infra’s headquarters, adjacent to the Western Express Highway, is spread across 3.83 acres and has a built-up area of 6.95 lakh sq ft. International real estate advisory firm CBRE has been roped in to manage the property transaction.
“With easy access to the Western Express Highway and the airport, the Santacruz property will command a rent in the range of Rs 240 to Rs 250 per sq ft plus common area maintenance charges," said an industry source. R-Infra acquired its Mumbai power distribution business from state utility Bombay Suburban Electric Supply (BSES) in 2003. It acquired land measuring 15,514 square metres as part of the deal. When R-Infra sold the power distribution business to Adani Transmission last August, it retained the land on which the headquarters stands on a payment of Rs 270 crore. A spokesperson for Whittle School and Studios confirmed that the school was scouting for campus locations in Indian metros, including Mumbai. "Whittle School and Studios is expanding beyond our first three campuses (New York and Washington DC in the US, and Shenzhen in China) to other major cities of the world and we are engaged in searches for campuses in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore," the spokesperson wrote in an emailed reply. Asked if it was in talks with ADAG for its Santacruz property, the spokesperson wrote, "We announce our campus sites only when we have fully completed negotiations and are ready to begin our recruitment of students. As soon as that has occurred, we will be happy to share more details." The high-profile school, founded by Chris Whittle, has ambitious plans to set up campuses in 36 major cities across the world over the next 10 years. These campuses will be designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, who has designed landmarks such as The Shard in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. He bagged the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998. According to the school's website, its campuses will have flexible workspaces, theatres, private music rooms, advanced sports facilities, and robotics and coding labs to ensure that education extends beyond classrooms. Each campus will include residential dormitories for local and regional boarding students, as well as for those studying abroad from other Whittle campuses. Each campus will serve approximately 2,000 to 2,500 students aged between 3 and 18 years with a common global faculty. World's sixth richest to bankrupt RCom, one of the pioneers in mobile communication in India, filed for bankruptcy last year with an estimated debt of Rs 50,000 crore and assets worth Rs 18,000 crore. As of December 31, 2019, ADAG companies including RCom, R-Infra, Reliance Naval & Engineering and Reliance Power had defaulted on loans worth more than Rs 43,800 crore. It marked a staggering fall for Anil Ambani, whom Forbes had ranked the sixth richest person in the world in 2008 with an estimated net worth of $42 billion. Earlier plans to monetise the Santacruz plot had gone nowhere as the BSES Employees Union had filed a petition in the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) claiming that the asset had been built with tariff paid by BSES consumers and thus should rightfully have gone to Adani Transmission. The petition also claimed that the Rs 270 crore that R-Infra paid to retain the property was much less than its market value. Vitthal Gaikwad, president of the BSES Employees Union, said, "The final hearing of our petition is scheduled for March 18. Though we are confident of winning the case, if required we will move the Supreme Court." A CBRE spokesperson refused to comment. In response to an email sent by Mirror, an R-Infra spokesman said, "It is not the company's policy to comment on rumours and speculation."
February 29, 2020