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Vijay Mallya Goes Down Partying

Forbes logo Forbes 10-03-2016 Naazneen Karmali, Forbes Staff

As the banks closed in on Vijay Mallya and urged his arrest, the Indian liquor magnate’s penchant for ‘good times’ has brought the bad times upon him, say some of his closest friends.

Weeks after the State Bank of India, India’s biggest lender, had labeled him as a “willful defaulter” for the more than $1 billion owed by his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, Mallya hosted the mother of all bashes to celebrate his 60th birthday in the beach resort town of Goa last December. The 2-day party, attended by some 300 people, featuring a fireworks display and performances by Enrique Iglesias and Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam, is estimated to have cost the former billionaire $3 million. (Mallya had claimed that Nigam performed for free)

© Vijay Mallya, so long, farewell (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

The celebrations took place at Kingfisher Villa, the iconic beachfront mansion in North Goa named after his UB Group’s popular beer. Guests were put up in style at the adjoining Taj hotel resort. In attendance was Mallya’s only son Siddhartha, who had quit his business career a couple of years ago to follow his passion for acting. In 2005, Mallya had launched  Kingfisher Airlines with much fanfare on his son’s 18th birthday.

The Goa extravaganza earned Mallya, who is also a nominated member of parliament, the ire of Raghuram Rajan, the much-respected governor of the Reserve Bank of India. “If you flaunt your birthday bashes even while owing the system a lot of money, it does seem to suggest to the public that you don’t care. I think that is the wrong message to send. If you are in trouble, you should be cutting down your expenses,” said Rajan in a January television interview.

Mallya had shown no sign of giving up the good life even after Kingfisher Airlines shut operations in 2010 and staff were owed unpaid salaries for months. Lavish parties, some aboard his luxury yatch, were part of his signature style. In a recent letter to Mallya, Kingfisher staff noted that “We are still not able to understand what you meant when you said “I don’t have money to pay your salaries” while the spree continues let it be Caribbean Premier League or luxurious yatch.” 

Apparently, Mallya had been advised by some friends to avoid a big gala in India for his 60th birthday and instead have a small celebration in London, where he maintains a luxury pad and country estate. Ignoring such well-meaning advice, the former billionaire, who is said to have departed for London last week, went on to host what could well be his last mega supper in a long time.

Watch: Is Vijay Mallya hiding in his house in London?

SLIDESHOW: Mallya’s darling Airbus A319 may go up for auction

See Vijay Mallya’s darling Airbus A319 which is up for auction: Vijay Mallya is back in the new with the Debt Recovery Tribunal on March 7 expected to pass orders on State Bank of India’s application on how to use the $75-million payout from Diageo to his UB Group. The beleaguered liquor baron has over the past few years been selling off most of his assets, among them his priced Airbus A319 jet. (Source: Express photo) See Vijay Mallya’s darling Airbus A319 which is up for auction

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