Chairman of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata (pictured above), will be succeeded by 43-year-old Cyrus Pallonji Mistry.

Story highlights

Tata Sons is an $80 billion conglomerate

Ratan Tata has no children

Mistry has been on the board since 2006

New Delhi CNN  — 

Ending years of speculation over the future leader of one of India’s largest and most influential business groups, Tata Sons Wednesday named 43-year-old Cyrus Pallonji Mistry as the successor to business icon Ratan Tata, the man who has led the $80 billion conglomerate for the past two decades.

The company broke away from tradition by appointing a non-family member for the first time in its almost 150-year-old history.

Mistry said in a statement that he was “deeply honored” and he was aware that an “enormous responsibility, with a great legacy, has been entrusted” to him.

Mistry is not new to the group; he has been on the board of Tata Sons since 2006 and will now serve as the group’s deputy chairman until Ratan Tata retires in December 2012.

Mistry is currently the managing director of construction giant Shapoorji Pallonji & Co.

His family owns 18% stake in Tata Sons, making the family the second biggest share-holder behind Tata Trust which has a 67% stake.

Mistry said in a statement that he will “legally dissociate” himself from the management of his family businesses however “to avoid any issue of conflict of interest.”

Tata said the appointment of Mistry was a “good and far-sighted choice” and that he had been “impressed with the quality and caliber of his participation, his astute observations and his humility.”

“I will be committed to working with him over the next year to give him the exposure, the involvement and the operating experience to equip him to undertake the full responsibility of the group on my retirement,” he added.

Tata, 73, is a bachelor with no children. He took over the family business in 1991 and has been credited for pioneering different markets and turning “Tata” into a household name.

With more than 100 companies in various sectors from steel to automobiles to tea, spread across 80 countries, Tata Sons employs almost half a million people around the world.

His international forays include the acquisition of British luxury automobiles brand Jaguar and Land Rover, Tetley Tea and European steel giant Corus.

At home, Tata made headlines when he launched what he has described as his favorite venture the Tata Nano – the world’s cheapest car.

Tata Sons also own the Taj group of hotels, including the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai which was at the center of the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks.

In a recent interview with CNN, Tata had said he would like to leave behind a group of companies that continues his family’s legacy.

“What I would like to do is to leave behind a sustainable entity of a set of companies that operate in an exemplary manner in terms of ethics, values and continue what our ancestors left behind. And, I hope my successor will will be as committed to that as I have tried to be.”

He went on to say, “My only regret is that I am not 20 years younger because I think India’s going through a very exciting period in its history.”