* Karl Slym, 51, fell from 22nd floor of Bangkok hotel
* Had been in Bangkok for board meeting of Thai unit
* Slym had been leading turnaround bid in domestic operation
* Tata shares drop 6 pct amid broader market fall
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Aradhana Aravindan
BANGKOK/MUMBAI, Jan 27 Karl Slym, managing
director of India's biggest automaker Tata Motors Ltd,
died after falling from a hotel room in Bangkok in what police
said on Monday may have been suicide.
Slym, 51, a British citizen, had attended a board meeting of
Tata Motors' Thailand unit in Bangkok and was staying with his
wife in a room on the 22nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel. Hotel
staff found his body on Sunday on the fourth floor, which juts
out above lower storeys of the complex.
"We didn't find any sign of a struggle," Police Lieutenant
Somyot Boonyakaew, heading the investigation, told Reuters.
"We found a window open. The window was very small so it was
not possible that he would have slipped. He would have had to
climb through the window to fall out because he was a big man.
From my initial investigation, we believe he jumped."
Boonyakaew said police found a three-page note, written in
English to Slym by his wife, which they were translating into
Thai. "The wife wrote the note because she wanted her husband to
know some personal things ... Yes, they did argue," he said
after speaking with her.
The couple had been married for about 30 years and had no
Thai police said they were called to the Shangri-La hotel
around 7:45 a.m. on Sunday after staff found Slym's body. They
woke up Slym's wife, who looked shocked when she was told what
had happened to her husband.
An autopsy on Slym's body was conducted on Monday, police
said without elaborating.
A Tata Motors spokeswoman declined comment on the possible
cause of Slym's death. A company statement on Sunday said Slym
provided leadership in a challenging market environment.
Slym was driving a turnaround in the company's domestic
operations. Investors worried about potential delays to these
plans after his death sent shares in Tata Motors down as much as
6.7 percent on Monday in a broader market that fell
more than 2 percent. The stock ended 6 percent lower.
"He had been given a sort of free hand. For another
professional to step in and enjoy the same confidence, with this
same management, is difficult, it will take time," said Deepesh
Rathore, director of Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors, based
in Gurgaon, India.
TURNING THE CORNER
Slym was hired in 2012 to revive Tata's flagging sales and
market share in India, the world's sixth-largest auto market by
unit sales. Tata Motors is part of the sprawling
software-to-steel Tata conglomerate.
"His death comes at a time when the company seems to be
close to turning the corner," said Anil Sharma, an analyst with
researchers IHS Automotive. "It comes before his efforts bear
fruit. We should be able to see the results in a year or two."
Tata Motors recently introduced a new petrol engine for its
passenger vehicles and was planning to launch a hatchback and
compact sedan this year, the first all-new Tata-branded
passenger vehicles since 2010.
Slym led the automaker's operations in India and
international markets including South Korea, Thailand and South
Africa, but he was not responsible for the Jaguar and Land Rover
(JLR) luxury unit that Tata Motors acquired in 2008.
CRICKET AND BOLLYWOOD
Friends described Slym as a jovial man who loved cricket and
Indian films. He was also active on Twitter, often promoting
Tata Motors products and avidly commenting on sports.
On his Twitter profile, Slym described himself as a
"Britisher who just cant stay away from India!! Crazy for most
sports and loves to know what's going on everywhere!! And
hearing from everyone!!"
"He was quite an affable, chilled-out, cool guy ... He loved
cricket and Bollywood like any Indian," said Hormazd Sorabjee,
editor of Autocar India and a friend of Slym's.
"From his point of view, at Tata Motors there was definitely
light at the end of the tunnel."
Tata Motors had lost traction in the Indian passenger
vehicle market as domestic and foreign rivals rolled out new
models while it mostly tweaked existing models and offered heavy
The firm has not had a hit car at home since 1998. Sales of
the Nano, the world's cheapest car which it unveiled in 2008,
have been lacklustre.
Before joining Tata Motors, Slym was executive vice
president of SGMW Motors, China, a General Motors joint
venture. Before that he had headed General Motors in India.