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#AllInTheFamily: Elderly Sikh father loses £50 million claim against hotel boss son

An elderly Sikh father who took legal action seeking a slice of his son’s multi-million pound fortune has lost his claim at the High Court in London.

Bal Mohinder Singh, 87, claimed that under Sikh tradition his 63-year-old son Jasminder – owner of the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels group – was obliged to share a third of his fortune with his parents.

However, while Jasminder is thought to be worth some £415 million, his father’s claim is believed to have been for £50 million.

The elder Mr Singh had claimed in court that the dispute was not about money but about the Sikh tradition of ‘Mitakshara’ which dictates that wealth should be shared equally between members of the family.

The judge however rejected Mr Singh’s claim saying that the “most unusual” case was a result of differences in the upbringing of father and son.

In his ruling, the judge said: “The root of the difference between them was in their upbringings with the father being raised in rural British India and the mother in Kenya.

“But Jasminder completing his education in the UK and taking little interest in the religious side of Sikhism.”
Despite the dispute, father and son as well as the extended family continue to live in a communal home: Tetworth Hall, a seven-bedroom country home near wealthy Ascot, Berkshire, just outside London.

Above: Radisson Blu chief Jasminder Singh

The duo had first started in business together in the early 1970’s, buying and operating a post office in North London after Jasminder had convinced his father to move to the UK for business.

The family later entered the hotels business, founding the £800 million Radisson Edwardian and Radisson Blu hotel chains which today includes the luxury Savoy Court and Vanderbilt Hotels in Central London as well as properties around the world.

The company also owns the iconic Odeon cinema in London’s Leicester Square.

The father however claimed he had been “forced out” of the business in 2010 by Jasminder who also failed to share the family wealth.

In a witness statement to the court Singh Sr said: “Both I and his mother are deeply ashamed that Jasminder should publicly renounce his cultural heritage and the mutual rights and obligations in which he was brought up.

“That family system based on custom and religious teaching is widely practised and universally understood by Hindus and Sikhs in India today just as it was in British India where I was brought up.

“It is also widely practised and universally understood in the Sikh and Hindu communities overseas including East Africa and the UK.

“My life has been devoted to winning respect for myself and family in those communities and the respect which we have earned as a family has been the basis for the success of our business in this country.

“For Jasminder to deny that and claim all the credit and ownership for himself will be shocking to wide sections of those communities particularly our family friends – that is why his mother and I are so ashamed.”

The Singh family had had to pay for the trial to be shifted to the Radisson-owned May Fair Hotel in Central London owing to the elder Mr Singh’s frail health.

In his own evidence, Jasminder claimed that he did not have a particularly religious childhood nor was there ever an agreement to share property between family members. 

Whilst denying Singh Senior’s claim, the judge praised the family’s “meteoric” rise to riches and spirit of entrepreneurship: “If nothing else this litigation has highlighted the extraordinary enterprise that has enabled the Singh family , in the space of just two generations, to rise from obscurity and very modest circumstances in what was then rural British India, overcome all manner of difficulties, come eventually to this country and make a fortune for itself.                                          

“I dare say it is not untypical of many such families but there can be few whose rise has been quite so meteoric. The family’s story as it unfolded in the course of this trial has a heroic quality to it. It has made it all the more painful to have to listen to the tragic differences that now divide its members.”

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