Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lakshmi Mittal's PR disaster

For those of you who don't know him, Lakhsmi Mittal is the world's wealthiest Indian. He is known as a turnaround specialist who buys gone-to-rust steel plants and turns them around, and makes his billions thus. Now for the first time, he is at the end of some seriously bad PR in Europe.

One of his latest acquisitions - the Omarska Iron mine in Bosnia - turned out to be a formerly notorious concentration camp. Now after his acquisition, former inmates of the Omarska detention camp and the families of those brutalised there in 1992 launched a massive public campaign for the mine to be turned into a memorial to suffering rather than a commercial success.

While Mr. Mittal knew about the history of the place, one does not know if he was aware of the precise sensibilities of the people. Mittal is in a tough situation right now, as he has already invested $40 million for Omarska and another mine, and backtracking now would be damaging financially.

The PR battle is being waged right now, but I believe at some point, the entrepreneur has to back out. Even the local government now is moving to a position of opposing Mittal's move.

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