He was also known for hosting celebrity parties on his 311-foot superyacht, the Indian Empress, during the Monaco Grand Prix.
But his reputation has been marred by ongoing legal battles with Indian authorities, and he is currently a fugitive in the United Kingdom.
So, how did one of India's prominent businessmen become one of the most-wanted fugitives in the country? Let's find out.
Vijay Mallya's business career
Mallya was the heir to his father Vittal Mallya's vast business empire.
At the age of 28, after the death of his father, Vijay took over the reins of United Breweries Group, an Indian conglomerate with diversified interests in beverage alcohol, aviation infrastructure, real estate and fertilisers.
Over the years, Mallya held several high-profile positions in many companies. He served as the chairman of United Spirits, the largest spirits company in India, as well as Sanofi India (formerly known as Hoechst AG and Aventis) and Bayer CropScience.
Mallya was also the chairman of Kingfisher Airlines, a premium airline launched on his son Siddharth's 18th birthday. The company quickly gained popularity and became the second largest domestic carrier in the country.
The Indian billionaire also dipped his toes in chemicals, paints, and publishing, acquiring The Asian Age newspaper and Bollywood film magazine Cine Blitz.
While navigating the world of business, Mallya also ventured into politics, serving two terms in India's upper house, the Rajya Sabha, before resigning in 2016 amidst allegations of wrongdoing.
Mallya was also involved in sports in a big way. He was the chairman of the Premier League cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore as well as the Force India F1 team.
Vijay Mallya in F1 with Force India
Ahead of the 2008 F1 season, Vijay Mallya and Dutch businessman Michiel Mol made headlines after buying the struggling Spyker F1 team for €88 million. The team was renamed Force India and became the first-ever Indian outfit to participate in the prestigious F1 world championship.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil were the first drivers to race for the Indian team, but they failed to score a point in the team's debut season in F1.
For 29 races, Force India struggled to make a mark on the grid until Fisichella clinched second place at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix having taken the team's sensational first pole position on the same weekend.
The team gradually began to climb the constructors' rankings in the following seasons, finishing seventh or higher. However, it was in 2016 that the team achieved its best result when Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg brought Sahara Force India up to fourth place with a total of 173 points, finishing ahead of renowned teams like Williams and McLaren.
In 2017, the team repeated the feat, finishing fourth once again - this time with 187 points.
However, the Indian outfit's fortunes took a sharp turn in 2018 when Mallya faced a legal case, leading the team to be put into administration in London’s High Court.
The team's assets were then bought by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, who rebranded the team as Racing Point Force India.
The team went through another name change, becoming Racing Point, before becoming Aston Martin in 2021.
Over the years, Force India has boasted some of the sport's biggest names, including Perez, Esteban Ocon, Paul di Resta, and Hulkenberg.
The team scored a total of 1,039 points, secured one pole position, five fastest laps, and six podiums from 2008 to 2018.
Vijay Mallya legal case
Kingfisher Airlines, which was one of Force India's major sponsors, turned into Mallya's Achilles' heel.
In 2012, the airline was grounded due to a crippling debt burden which ultimately made it impossible to continue operations. The financial situation was so dire that even employees went unpaid for over a year.
The company struggled to repay the loans that Mallya sought from banks, although, according to reports, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has stated that Mallya had enough money between 2008 and 2017 to repay the loans.
It is also believed that during the same period when his airline was going through a financial crisis, Mallya bought properties in England and France and transferred money to his children's trusts in Switzerland.
In 2016, the situation escalated as public-sector banks declared Mallya a "wilful defaulter."
In March 2016, the Enforcement Directorate of India filed a money laundering case against Mallya for sending millions of dollars abroad. Around the same time, the banks approached the Supreme Court to prevent his departure from the country.
However, he had already left India for the United Kingdom, leaving behind debts exceeding $1 billion.
Since then, he has remained in the UK while the Indian government attempts to extradite him to face charges of fraud and money laundering.
In January 2019, Mallya was declared a fugitive economic offender under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, while the Indian fugitive continued to deny all allegations, saying that he is a victim of 'witch-hunt'.
Vijay Mallya FAQs
Where is Vijay Mallya now
Mallya is believed to be residing in the United Kingdom.
Does Vijay Mallya still own Force India?
No, Vijay Mallya no longer owns Force India. In 2018, a consortium of investors led by Lawrence Stroll acquired the F1 team, which was renamed Racing Point Force India. The team rebranded again in 2021, becoming the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team.
What is Vijay Mallya's net worth?
Mallya's net worth is unclear due to ongoing legal issues.
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