Profile: Sahara chief Subrata Roy

Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Kolkata November 29, 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Subrata Roy, with his rags-to-riches story, is a household name in India

Subrata Roy is one of India's most flamboyant and enigmatic tycoons.

The rags-to riches story of the chairman of Sahara, which became one of India's biggest business groups, has made him a household name in India.

The group, worth 682bn rupees ($11bn; £6.6bn), has businesses ranging from finance, housing, manufacturing, aviation and the media. It also has interests overseas - it owns New York's landmark Plaza Hotel and London's iconic Grosvenor House.

Sahara also sponsors the Indian hockey team and owns a stake in Formula One racing team, Force India.

With more than 1.1 million workers, the group is also India's biggest private sector employer.

Mr Roy is often in the news for his larger-than-life image, colourful lifestyle and considerable political connections.

He counts Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan among his friends and rubs shoulders with the likes of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

At the wedding of Mr Roy's two sons in 2004, festivities lasted nearly a fortnight. It was billed as the Indian marriage of the century, and it lived up to the hype.

Over 10,000 guests - a veritable A-list of India's power set, including business moguls, Bollywood idols, cricket stars and fashionistas - were airlifted to Lucknow by special chartered planes. Then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee also flew down to bless the newly-weds.

Opulent lifestyle

Critics say Mr Roy runs his company like a cult, referring to himself as the "chief managing worker" and guardian of the "Sahara parivar (family)".

The Sahara boss has an opulent lifestyle - he has a fleet of private jets and helicopters and one of his mansions is modelled on the White House.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption With more than 1.1 million workers, Sahara group is India's biggest private sector employer.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Subrata Roy (right) counts Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan among his friends
Image copyright AP
Image caption In October, Mr Roy was photographed with former British PM Tony Blair at the Balkan Peace Festival in Skopje, Macedonia.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Sahara chief owns a fleet of fancy cars, including Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and BMWs.

Another residence - located in a private city he has built at a cost of tens of millions of dollars - is a replica of the Buckingham Palace.

According to reports, he owns a fleet of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and BMWs.

The 65-year-old lives in Lucknow, the capital city of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, and is often named among the most influential businessmen in the country by Indian news magazines.

But at the moment Mr Roy is in the news for the wrong reasons - he has been arrested for failing to appear in court over refunds to millions of investors.

Two of his firms raised nearly 240bn rupees ($3.9bn; £2.3bn) through illegal bonds five years ago and authorities say he has failed to refund the money despite a court order. Mr Roy has issued a statement setting out his case and denying reports that he was avoiding court appearances.

Sahara also disputes the amount of money it has to pay back.

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