Family and friends have paid tribute to Lord Swraj Paul’s youngest son, Angad Paul, whose death last Sunday (8) in London has left those who were close to him as well as the wider Asian community numb with uncomprehending shock.
Angad, 45, fell to his death from his family’s eight-storey apartment block in Portland Place. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and two young children.
Angad’s father-in-law, Jeffery Bonn, said the family had been torn apart by the news. The 72-year-old, who lives in Kensal Rise, north London, said: “We are all in pieces. We are very much in shock, nothing can be said. He was a very good, very generous and very kind man. He was dearly loved and will be so sadly missed.”
These sentiments were echoed in the Asian community.
A statement from the Metropolitan Police said that officers were called to the scene at 11am last Sunday. The London ambulance service and air ambulance also attended but the victim was “pronounced dead at the scene”.
“Enquiries into the circumstances of the incident continue but it is being treated as non-suspicious at this stage,” the police added.
Angad was the chief executive officer of the Caparo Group, the steel, automotive and engineering products company founded by his father in 1968.
Swraj, now 84, remained chairman of Caparo but in late 2002, when he wanted “youth and dynamism” to take the company forward, he appointed Angad, then only 32, as its CEO.
When Swraj founded Caparo in Hun-tingdon in 1968 – the year his daughter, Ambika, died, aged barely five, from leukaemia – it focused on making steel tubes. But Caparo grew and diversified into a global company manufacturing steel, engineering and automotive parts.
However, the deepening steel crisis took its toll this year. Steel prices fell, with the problems exacerbated by the dumping of cheap Chinese steel on world markets. The strengthening of the pound against the euro meant Caparo exports to Europe became more expensive and thus declined sharply.
On October 20, Caparo directors called in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as administrators to deal with 16 Caparo companies in the UK. The fate of 1,700 employees is now in the balance. Already 450 people have been made redundant.
One tweet expressed condolences for the family and then summed up: “The other tragedy behind this is, of course, that of the steel industry, not just of the emplo-yees but our capacity… remind me, where are we buying the cheap steel from?”
Angad’s death is not only a grievous loss for his family but is also seen as a tragedy for the Asian community. Angad, who won a number of awards for his entrepreneurship, and was seen as a future leader and a worthy successor to his father.
Swraj came to depend on Angad more and more. For example, when he did an annual tour of his companies in America or when he went to India, Angad was invariably by his father’s side.
Angad was born in London on June 6, 1970, and was educated, like his elder twin brothers – Ambar and Akash, 15 years his senior – at Harrow. He then attended Swraj’s alma mater, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston where he received a BSc in economics.
But he also studied media, arts and sciences and qualified in film studies, an interest he pursued successfully as producer and executive producer of a number of films. These included the immensely successful Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as well as Snatch. He also helped develop Boom, which introduced British Indian actress Katrina Kaif to Bollywood.
He was fond of fast cars and was behind the Caparo T1, which was the world’s fastest supercar when it was laun-ched in 2006. It was developed by former McLaren Formula One engineers.
Angad teamed up with Stella McCartney’s husband Alasdhair Willis to form upmarket furniture brand Establi-shed & Sons.
When Angad married media lawyer Michelle Bonn a decade ago, Swraj wanted a special venue for the wedding recepti-on. He chose Lancaster Ho-use, a palace used by the government for entertaining and sometimes conferences.
Invitation cards bearing the Paul crest, with its motto of ‘Truth, Freedom and Compassion’, were sent to 1,600 “friends”.
“I wanted an unusual place,” Swraj said at the time. “It is not often Lancaster House is given to anybody, rather it is not given to anybody. It is a government hospitality place, for government banquets. There were kind enough to let me have it.”
Guests included Gordon Brown, the chancellor at the time, and his wife, Sarah.
The desi contingent seemed outnumbered by government ministers, past and present (Robin Cook, Lord Goldsmith, David Blunkett, Baroness Scotland, and Paul Boateng, high commissioner designate to South Africa); MPs, including Keith Vaz, who named his first born after Swraj; peers including Baroness Flather; and leaders of industry.
Angad was among family members present when his father hosted his annual tea party in memory of Ambika in Regent’s Park – she had enjoyed visiting London Zoo in her short life. Born two years after her death, Angad was always mindful of the legacy of Ambika, “the sister I never knew but who inspires us all”.
Swraj had always set great store by Angad. He saw his youngest son as the right person to take Caparo forward in the 21st century. Now that task of rebuilding will have to be left to his other children and grandchildren who also happen to be talented and qualified.
Angad was once asked: “What is the single most important thing you have learnt from your dad?”
His reply: “Just to not give up.”
When asked whether the responsibility of running a global empire sat heavily on his shoulders, he did not seem a bit cowed.
“My father built a business doing certain things to a point – I have been doing it for 10 years,” he said.
“My father gave me a responsibility 10 years ago and I have worked to that responsibility. We have got a company three times larger than the one I inherited, which earns strong margins and which has expan-ded internationally. That’s all that matters.”
The funeral will be at 9am on Friday (13) at Golders Green Crematorium, Hoop Lane, London; there will be a prayer gathering on Sunday (15), at 4pm at the Prince Albert Suite (entry by Prince Albert Gate), London Zoo, Regent’s Park, London.