A Jaguar Land Rover insider has described the hotel window death plunge of senior Tata executive Karl Slym as a “tragedy”.
Academic and trusted adviser to the Indian-based company’s business empire Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya said Mr Slym had been appointed to turn Tata Motors' fortunes around.
Police have said that they found a suicide note after he fell from the 22nd floor at the Thailand hotel where he had been staying.
Mr Slym, aged 51, the managing director of Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company Tata Motors , was discovered at the foot of the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok on Sunday, January 26 after falling from his bedroom.
Lord Bhattacharyya, who has long had close links with Tata, told the Post: “It is a tragedy that he went so young.”
The founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group, the manufacturing arm of the University of Warwick, said Mr Slym, who had been MD of Tata Motors since October 2012, was “a good managing director”.
Lord Bhattacharyya added: “He had been taking many important decisions designed to turnaround the fortunes of Tata Motors.”
Mr Slym, who was from Derby, had been in the Thai capital with his wife Sally to attend a meeting of Tata Motors Thailand.
Thai police have launched an investigation into his death and revealed it might have been suicide
The Thai police forensic unit said Mr Slym died from head injuries and internal damage after falling from his room.
Police said investigators’ initial assumption was that Mr Slym killed himself after they found of a suicide note left in the hotel room referring to domestic problems.
A police spokesman said the letter was being analysed to confirm it was written by Mr Slym.
Mr Slym was providing leadership to Tata Motors during a difficult market period, company chairman Cyrus Mistry said in a statement.
He described Mr Slym as “a valued colleague who was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry”.
“In this hour of grief, our thoughts are with Karl’s wife and family,” he said.
Before joining Tata, Mr Slym was the executive vice president of SGMW Motors in China.
He also served as managing director and board member of General Motors in India from 2007 to 2011.
Mr Slym and his wife lived in India and the automotive boss had recently been spearheading a retirement programme that would see job cuts.
On Twitter Mr Slym described himself as a “Britisher who just can’t stay away from India! Crazy for most sports and loves to know what’s going on everywhere! And hearing from everyone!”
He had posted recently on subjects as diverse as the Australian Open tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and the launch of truck racing in India, which Tata Motors was involved in.
Mr Slym was known to be a dedicated fan of Derby County FC fan, who continued to follow the club’s fortunes keenly wherever he was in the world.
A Tata spokesman said: “Tata Motors deeply regrets to announce the untimely and tragic demise of its managing director, Karl Slym, in Bangkok.
“The company shares in the grief of Karl Slym’s wife and family at their irreparable loss.”
Mr Slym was among the Tata Motors executives who met with Post reporter Jon Griffin when he visited India as part of a Midland media delegation shortly before Christmas.
He spoke of the company’s plans for the next six years but warned of the severity of the downturn in the automotive industry.
He said Tata Motors had a detailed product portfolio until 2020 but warned the global motoring industry was still facing a cyclical downturn.
“This one is longer than most,” he said. “It is very difficult to make a profitable business in the mainstream segment of Europe.”
Mr Slym was speaking at the Tata plant at Pune, where 20,000 people work, including around 150 people on the JLR plant, assembling Freelanders, the Jaguar XF and with potential for the Evoque in future.
In a lengthy automotive industry career Mr Slym had also worked for Toyota and General Motors in a number of positions in several different countries.
He was an alumnus of Stanford University and a Sloan Fellow.