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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 06:57 GMT 07:57 UK
'Missing' Indian tycoon surfaces
Subroto Roy
Subroto Roy is one of India's richest and most enigmatic businessmen
An Indian tycoon who has not been seen in public since April has appeared on television, in an attempt to scotch speculation that he was seriously ill.

Subroto Roy, head of the $10bn (5.5bn) Sahara group, has also given a newspaper a medical certificate which declared him free of any disease.

His disappearance sparked off wild rumours in India's power and party circuit about his health.

Mr Roy's Sahara group has interests in banking, aviation, media and housing.

I have got an HIV test done and I do not have Aids
Subroto Roy

In a pre-recorded TV message played on a channel owned by Sahara, Mr Roy said the rumours about his illness had been spread by "criminal-minded" people.

He had simply, he said, needed a short break to rest and to correct some aspects of his lifestyle, after the resurgence of an old blood-pressure condition.

Rumours

The tycoon led a flamboyant lifestyle partying with Bollywood stars and hosting extravagant parties.

"You are watching me here today. But some people have already declared me dead," he said.

Dispelling rumours that he was critically ill, Mr Roy told The Times of India newspaper in a separate interview: "I have got an HIV test done and I do not have Aids."

In a recent interview to Outlook magazine, the tycoon's son Sushanto Roy had said that his father was "disciplining his lifestyle".

Mr Roy said he had spent time drawing up new business plans while recuperating in the past three months.

The tycoon's condition sparked feverish speculation

He also claimed that Hollywood actor Michael Douglas would be helping in a collaboration between his group and Hollywood.

Mr Roy also dismissed rumours about the company facing any cash crunch.

The gossip about Mr Roy's health had led the tycoon to issue a letter last month to his business associates and nearly 900,000 employees. Sahara is India's biggest private sector employer.

In the letter, he said he was not suffering from any life-threatening illness and had been advised to rest by his doctors.

But the letter failed to quell the rumours about his ill health, and early in June Outlook magazine carried a cover story which asked: "Have you see this man lately?"

Wide-ranging group

Subroto Roy's Sahara began in 1978 with three workers in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh as a small deposits para-banking business.

Subroto Roy and Ashwariya Rai
Roy (l) led a flamboyant lifestyle, partying with Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai

Today it claims to have grown into a $10bn diversified business group with interests in housing, entertainment, media and aviation.

Virtually unheard of 15 years ago, Sahara today runs a private airline, entertainment and news television channels, a newspaper, and claims to own some 33,000 acres of real estate across India.

The group also sponsors the Indian cricket and hockey teams and is planning to move into life insurance, housing finance, consumer products, sportswear, and healthcare.

Mr Roy, who calls himself the group's "chief guardian", is one of India's most well-networked businessman, counting several top Indian politicians, businessmen and Bollywood and cricket stars as his friends.


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