Scientifically proven fact: Africans genuinely believe in almost mystical power of labor. According to a survey conducted by Gallup Institute, nine out of ten people in Africa believe that it is hard work, that sooner or later brings us to success and prosperity. It is noteworthy that Africa has given the go-by to North Africa and Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and the EU in this uncompromising belief: 85% of respondents in the continent share this opinion. And there are grounds for it. In late 2014, UBS bank experts issued a report, which included more than three thousand African millionaires.
Africa along with the Middle East demonstrates one of the highest rates of growth in number of the rich people. Most of them — 835 — in South Africa, followed by Nigeria (645), Egypt (595), Kenya (170), Tanzania (120), Angola (115). The UBS report provides a list of African cities, home to the largest number of multimillionaires. These cities are Lagos (520), Johannesburg (450), Cairo (445), Cape Town (150), Nairobi (135).
Africa gives cause for more loud sensations. A year ago, the Ventures magazine experts came to the conclusion that the number of African countries citizens who possessed the capital more than $1 billion, turned out to be twice more than it had been assumed. What is the cause of their financial takeoff: perseverance and hard work? Let’s puzzle out how to become a billionaire in African way.
Billionaire’s full face and profile
According to Chi-Chi Okonjo, the founder of The Ventures Africa magazine there are more than 55 billionaires in Africa, “But the discussion of wealth is still there under a taboo.” The word “taboo” in our opinion, is not quite pertinent. It is “uncool” in Africa, to make a display of one’s money. This is the first thing. Secondly, almost the same numbers — more than fifty billionaires — are operated by other sources. Forbes magazine published a list of the 40 richest people in Africa (without mentioning that this list is complete) in late 2011. According to the title, their combined wealth “weighed” about 65 billion dollars at that time. Finally, and thirdly, Africa becomes a full party to the globalization process, and hence its big business plays by the rules adopted in the civilized world: money is transparent.
There are, of course, some specifics: African business is mostly family business, so it is rather complicated to single out the leader, in other words, a direct list player, as well as to define the amount of assets belonging to him personally. However, the portrait of the billionaire in African style emerges quite clearly.
So, according to The Ventures magazine, the assets of the 55 richest Africans are estimated at about 143.88 billion dollars. The wealthiest man in Africa (the undisputed fact for all experts) is Aliko Dangote from Nigeria. He maintains this reputation for a long time and with great confidence.
The average level of African billionaires’ personal wealth is estimated at 2.6 billion dollars. The average age is 65 years. The oldest of the richest are Kenyan industrialist Manu Kandariya and Egyptian, however, well known in Europe, Mohamed Al-Fayed — they are 82 years old. The youngest are Tanzanian Mohammed Dewji and an oilman from Nigeria Igho Sanomi — they are around 40. According to the Ventures, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt have the largest number of the richest men — twenty, nine and eight, respectively. Algeria, Angola, Zimbabwe and Swaziland have one in each country. Totally, 10 African countries are represented in the list.
A 10-year period of intensive economic growth has contributed to increase in the number of billionaires in Africa, as the Financial Times reports. Oil price behavior has also influenced: from $20 for a barrel in early 2000 to more than $140 in 2008, and completely comfortable decline to $100 until the middle of 2014.
How to become a billionaire in Africa? The most concise answer was given by the Africans themselves in the aforementioned Gallup Institute poll: to work hard. Money is really “lying under their feet” there — diamonds, gold and oil. But still it is not so simple.
Trying to understand the secrets of business excellence of the “new Africans”, RV has come to a startling conclusion: their business careers are almost never reduplicated. Billionaire in Africa is an absolutely exclusive phenomenon: one goes to the top in one’s own way. Business of the richest Africans is multifarious: from telecommunications — to agro villages, from the financial market — to retailers, from coffee plantations — to housing, infrastructure and tourism industry. Well, the energy, of course: no way round it!
Markets of goods, finance and services in Africa are limitless. Everyone can play the game “who wants to be a billionaire.” Or almost everyone. At any rate, business women are among the winners, judging by the Ventures magazine list. Perhaps, we should start with them.
Occupation — fashion designer
According to the Ventures, a leader in the women’s rankings is Folorunsho Alakija, Nigerian, combining the talent of fashion designer and oilman (the edition estimated her assets at more than $7 billion in 2013). The richest woman in Africa has a 60% stake in one of the most profitable OML127 deep water blocks, which makes 200,000 oil barrels per day. But this occupation is permissive, although super profitable, as well as another passion of hers — polygraphy. Alakija is a Managing Director of the Rose of Sharon Group, which includes The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Limited and Digital Reality Prints Limited companies. Besides, she is an Executive Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil Limited, and so on and so forth: even her biographers cannot call to mind all posts and regalia of this energetic Nigerian. But Folorunsho Alakija’s main profession is a fashion designer. Even so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First — the story of how she became a billionaire.
Folorunsho Alakija was born in 1951, in Ikorodu, Lagos State, Nigeria. She graduated Muslim school and continued her education in London. First of all, it was Pitman’s Central College, then The American College, and finally— Central School of Fashion, London. She did not try her luck on British catwalks — just returned home and soon founded the first small company, dress-making and tailoring establishment Supreme Stitches. Things went not just successful, but fantastically successful. The customers and (that is important), Folorunsho’s patronesses were representatives of the higher establishment of the country.
Madame couturier easily entered into upperclass society, and (rumor) made a pal of the wife of President Ibrahim Babangida (head of the state from 1985 to 1993).
Trendy business prospered, her Rose of Sharon House of Fashion became known far beyond the country. Alakija’s merits were highly evaluated: she became the national president and life trustee of the Fashion Designers Association.
Having taken a vertex, you can easily conquer a new one. “Soft woman with iron character” — is said of Folorunsho at home. This businesswoman fully justified this characteristic: she went on untilled virgin soil — into the oil business.
Famfa Limited company founded by Folorunsho got a license to oil exploration in the area of 617,000 acres in 355 km south-east of Lagos in the central delta of the river Niger in 1993. The business is a little unknown for a beginner, and to say the truth — unsupportable. But in less than three years, such oil heavyweights as Texaco (through its subsidiary Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited) and the Brazilian Petrobras were included in partners of the Nigerian fashion designer.
Alakija is involved in charity work. She founded Rose of Sharon fund, which helps widows and orphans, awards scholarships and grants for starting a business. And, of course, no age beauty Folorunsho has a family: a young husband and four children.
By the way, the family of billionaires still lives in Lagos keeping in mind, perhaps the great wisdom of their countryman, the richest African Aliko Dangote. And he said, “ Nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.”
“Work — work,” — conspire these Africans. However, everything is not so easy.
Born in the USSR
The Ventures magazine hands the second place in the women’s ranking of billionaires to Isabel dos Santos, an elder daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (from September 1979).
The Forbes magazine, by the way, gave Isabel the first place. But as it was already mentioned, it is extremely difficult to allocate private capital, and calculate the nominee’s assets with precision, in the African family business. The law of large figures is in effect here — in this case, one billion more or a billion less today — and it does not matter for the casual observer. The main thing is that Alakija and dos Santos are out of competition. They are the richest women in Africa. There are, however, some aspects: Isabelle is more associated with foreign assets. That’s what the globalization made for.
However, it is globalization that we have now. And in the early 60’s, there were anti-colonialism and proletarian internationalism. And all these three concepts were closely intertwined in the life of our heroine. The first concept is clear: it is a real present time of entrepreneur Isabel dos Santos. The second one is the heroic youth of her father, who became a vice-chairman of the youth organization MPLA— The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola at his 20. And the third concept is an unexpected twist of fate for Jose dos Santos. The wave of international solidarity of the USSR with the peoples of Africa brought the young activist of the national liberation movement to the distant shore of the Caspian Sea. In November 1963, the future president of Angola was sent to study in the Soviet Union, Baku Oil and Gas Institute within the group of MPLA Fellows.
Student dos Santos studied hard and took charge of Angolan student community in the Soviet Union. In June 1969, he obtained his petroleum engineer diploma and, according to some information, was sent to a special military school in the USSR.
“Who needs the details of Mr. Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ Soviet biography?” the thoughtful reader would ask. “This story is about his daughter, who made a distinguished career in her homeland.” But the fact is that Isabel dos Santos, the current “Queen” of Africa (at home, however, she is called “Princess”), is a Soviet personage, as we can say. African billionaire, who heads the Forbes list, was born in the USSR.
Baku student from Angola, José dos Santos, married a pretty girl from Penza Tatiana Kukanova in 1966. There, in Baku, Isabel was born. And her early childhood passed on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
A daughter of anti-colonial movement activist (the country got independence only in November 1975) had no big chance of success in her home country. She attended public school in Luanda (though, there were no private schools at that time in Angola). Her friends and acquaintances recollect that she was a very shy girl, and remains modest up to this day. At least, Isabelle refuses categorically from any interview.
Her father became president in 1979. Parents got divorced. Isabelle and her mother Tatiana moved to London. As reported in the British press, the girl spent two years in a private school of St. Paul. Then she studied electronic engineering and business administration at King’s College London.
Isabel returned to Angola at the age of 24. She tried her hand at small businesses, showing complete independence: opened a restaurant in Luanda, and then launched garbage disposal company. Success (as people say) came gradually and not without her father’s support.
Nowadays, according to The Forbes, dos Santos is the biggest shareholder of Zon, Portuguese media conglomerate, and owns a 28.8% stake. 19.5% stake in Portuguese bank Banko BPI, as well as 25% of the Angolan bank Banco BIC are at her disposal. The Guardian wrote also about 25% of the Angolan telecommunications company Unitel. Anyway, the state newspaper Jornal de Angola awarded her the Entrepreneur of the Year title in 2012.
Family assets were multiplied by profitable and happy marriage. In 2003, Isabel married Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese art collector and the son of the tycoon Sanu Dokolo, the founder of the Bank of Kinshasa. The couple has three children now and lives alternately in Luanda, London, Lisbon and Johannesburg.
By the way, the British press, offended by the taciturn spouse “trailed” heartily their wedding. A choir from Belgium at the wedding ceremony, and two planes with delicacies delivered from France were remembered and talked over. The presidents of the African states were among the hundreds of invited guests, and the celebration itself, according to press reports, cost about $4 million. Well, who is surprised in the context of today’s standards?
And Isabel, apparently, has become a real pro. Having received the large shares in the companies, representing strategic sectors of Angola — banks, cement industry, telecommunications, oil, diamonds, she diversifies her investments. More than half of the assets accrue to the Portuguese public companies. Globalization...
Experts argue how to arrange seats within the top five of African billionaires. The only thing reconciles them: the name of the leader is beyond the debates. Nigerian Aliko Dangote is non-competitive and out of reach. As of November 2014, The Forbes estimates his assets at 21.6 billion dollars. The magazine named Dangote a Person of the Year 2014.
How has this 57-year-old entrepreneur become a billionaire? Oil and diamonds have no relationship to this take off. Cement King, owner of Dangote Group, among other things, engaged in food products, soft drinks, beer, confectionery products manufacture, is also the leader in sugar production industry in Nigeria and neighboring countries. The company operates in Benin, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, South Africa and Zambia.
Dangote had business acumen since his childhood. He recalls: “Even at elementary school, I could buy a box of candy and sell them. Business interested me even then.” It’s a family matter in case of our hero.
Dangote was born in 1957 in the Nigerian state of Kano in a very prosperous Muslim family. It is not surprising that the relatives advised him the Faculty of Economics at Cairo Al-Azhar University, as the Alma Mater. The family did not leave Alico-graduate without attention. No, it was not about providing a comfortable allowance to the posh. After a brief farewell speech, his uncle gave him a loan to open a business. A small one. A little bit more than 2,500 dollars in local currency. Aliko Dangote went into business when he was 21, and was never going to return.
Dangote Group, founded in 1977, was conceived as a trading company. But it gradually transformed into the largest industrial group in Nigeria, including Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, Dangote Flour, and a dozen other firms.
Aliko Dangote never lacked an entrepreneurial imagination. Let’s consider, for example, his idea to appeal to the Nigerian authorities with a proposal to lease an abandoned plot of land in Apapa port to build a silo. Flour could be shipped to the vessels without any additional transportation. The project started operating to the mutual benefit of the businessman and the port in 2012. One more business plan. In the late 90’s Dangote convinced the head management of the Central Bank of Nigeria to place bank’s motor pool under the management of his transport fleet companies — and also to the mutual benefit. Or let us see another maneuver. The Nigerian government decided to privatize the Benue Cement Company in 2000. Our hero applied for and received a plant in operation. It was quite another company in a couple of years. Dangote changed management, invested in manufacturing facilities and made a large-scale reconstruction. The productivity increased more than threefold. However, the purity of the experiment, and how the entrepreneur managed to negotiate with the authorities, was widely talked over. But who can judge a winner?
In 2003, Dangote built the largest cement plant in Africa — Obajana Cement. The entrepreneur became a supplier not only within the region from South Africa to Zambia and Senegal — new capacities generated by Dangote embraced the markets of Tanzania, Congo, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia.
What else is the entrepreneur dreaming of? To deprive French company Lafarge of competitive advantage and become the largest cement producer in the world. And not only this.
Today Dangote Group holds 70% of the sugar market in the country. It is the principal supplier of this product in Africa and the third in the world, producing 800 thousand tons per year. In addition, the Dangote Group is a manufacturer of salt, flour, rice, pasta and fertilizers. The company widely exports cotton, cashew, cocoa, sesame and ginger. But even this rather diversified list would not be complete without mentioning that Dangote invests in real estate, banking, transport, textile industry and, of course, in oil and gas. More than 11 thousand people found a job within his business empire — it is the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa.
But that’s not all. The “new Africans” cannot imagine life without the latest high technologies. Dangote is not an exception. He is carried away by telecommunications. So much so that he has decided to pull nationwide fiber-optic cables with a total length of 14 thousand kilometers.
In 2013, the businessman, according to Bloomberg, took 30 th place in the ranking of the richest people in the world after adding to his holdings 9.2 billion.
Dangote’s wealth grows like a weed. He has long been considered to be one of the richest people in Africa. But an assessment of his business greatly varied, as in case with other “new Africans.” For example, in 2010 some experts estimated the capital of his holding only at 3.3 billion dollars. A year later they did not believe their eyes: the assessment increased almost at five hundred percent! The mystery was easily solved: Dangote mastered a new kind of business — went to the stock exchange. And put his assets not as “retail”, but consolidated them under a single brand of Dangote Cement Holding. Demand for shares turned out to be fantastic: the securities covered almost a quarter of the Nigerian stock market. The businessman immediately declared that he intended to storm the London Stock Exchange and have no less than five billion.
Well, there are not so many African securities at the European markets. And his holding is a high-quality structure, and diversified. According to the businessman’s own forecasts, the total cost of holding can reach 60 billion in 2015. If there’s something always needed, it is food and cement.
“We are going to invest $4.7 billion in our cement business projects in 18 countries, including Nigeria. We will also vest $2.3 billion in agriculture, namely in sugar and rice,” says Dangote. Besides, Dangote Industries invests nine billion dollars in construction of fertilizer plants and petrochemical production in Nigeria. “We are very, very optimistic. We expect the average growth rate of 30%.” And that’s it.
This story began in 2003. Mohammed Devji, 28-year-old Tanzanian, loaned money from his father and purchased a soap factory very cheaply. Shortly after he purchased a factory producing edible fats and several textile producing companies. The situation was like this at that time: the government was giving out problem and even destroyed assets almost for free.
The young businessman successfully implemented the knowledge acquired in business schools in Tanzania and in the USA, and before long his factories started bringing profit. At present they are a part of his business empire — MeTL Group (Mohammed Enterprises Tanzanian Limited). And its owner — Mohammed Devji — has been recognized the youngest and the most successful billionaire of Africa.
For Tanzania, MeTL is a backbone company. It is easier to say what MeTL Group does not produce than list all of its businesses. The company has a well-developed infrastructure and logistics, means of transport and a hundred of regional representative offices; it produces for export cocoa, sesame, sunflower, cardamom, coriander, honey, soy beans, tea, corn, beeswax.
Textiles 21 Сentury — a division of MeTL — is the largest business structure in Eastern and Central Africa; it produces 720 tons of cotton yarn and 150 tons of polyester or mixed yarn per month. Few or the world corporate giants can compete with such production rates. Besides, the company produces traditional African apparel for men and women, fabrics, home textile. According to the Ventures Africa data, textile factories make an annual profit in the amount of 100 million dollars. Another division — MeTL AGRO — is the leader in the market of agricultural equipment supplies.
Financial company Golden Crescent Assurance is the first 100% Tanzanian insurer in the private sector; it has a multi-thousand client base.
Recently established Star Oils Tanzania company which is located in the territory of the Dar es Salaam Port, is building a network of 200 oil distributing stations throughout the country.
One of the most rapidly developing divisions of MeTL Group — Zefona Cellines — is the largest dealer of Vodacom (T) Ltd — the leading provider of mobile communication services in the country. Mo Cashews company produces 10 thousand kilograms of cashew nuts each day.
The very first deal has justified the hopes as well: East Coast Oils and Fats company produces laundry soap, toilet soap and palm-oil, and covers over 70% of the local market.
Devji Jr. has a grip like his father’s one. He also started with a small shop and managed to create a successful business. But at first he did not believe in this son’s entrepreneurial talent.
After achieving a bachelor’s degree, Mohammed continued his study in the Georgetown University in Washington and even got a job in the Wall Street. He worked hard — like any African striving for success. But his salary was barely enough to pay for his rent and taxes. His father did not support him financially then but he gave a wise advice to his son: stop wasting time and return home, to Tanzania.
The readers already know what happened later. Mohammed became a billionaire and overcame his father in all respects. He revealed the secret of his rise some time later. Unlike his father Devji Jr. did not limit himself to the import of goods and their resale in the local market. “Why are we importing soap? We are able to produce it on our own, aren’t we?” And he launched a soap factory.
In mid-2013 in his interview to the Forbes magazine Mohammed Devji said that by 2018 the return of MeTL Group will amount 5 billion dollars and by 2023 he shall become the leader of the African billionaires rating. But it is a “soap opera”, so there should be unexpected turns of scenario: the company is planning to achieve the 5-billion level of profit this year already.
Devji’s story is a proof of a simple truth: a billionaire — especially a young billionaire — should be excellent in every aspect. His business is excellent, his style is excellent (he prefers expensive European brands), and his thoughts are excellent too. For example, he told Forbes Africa: “If anyone asks who is more intelligent — my father or me, I’ll answer — my father. Why? Because it is much easier to make money when you have money than to make money when you have nothing.”
The Discreet Charm of a billionaire
At the BRICS summit held in 2013 in Durban (RSA) the leaders of Russia, Brazil, China, India and RSA adopted a declaration on the establishment of the BRICS Business Council. The Council’s mission is to perform implementation of multilateral investment projects and become a platform for spreading advanced technologies — in personnel training, banking, industry, “green” economy. Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe — a businessman from RSA — became the Chairman of the Council and its South African part. “I am sure that in the nearest future we shall see the changes in the quality of trade within BRICS” — he said.
Who is this person in whom the leaders of BRICS put so much trust? The website of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation provides such official information about Motsepe: “He is one of the most powerful and rich people in the world, the first black-skinned billionaire in history. According to The Forbes, his capital amounts 2,65 billion dollars.” We can add that in 2012 Patrice Motsepe was named the richest person of RSA by the Sunday Times.
He is the executive chairman of the African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) company which is involved in development of gold, iron ore and platinum fields (Motsepe owns 42% of its shares). He is a member of boards of directors of several business structures including Harmony Gold which is ranked 12th among the world top gold-mining companies. Plus he owns 5,5% of shares of the South African financial company Sanlam.
At the same time, Mr. Motsepe is absolutely not a typical representative of the global billionaires community. Of all the common stereotypes, Motsepe shares perhaps only one: he owns a football club — but a “native”, South African one — Mamelodi Sundowns. Mr. Motsepe has a very humble — for a billionaire — lifestyle. He has no passion for buying real estate: his family owns only one house in a prestigious district of Johannesburg. He has no yachts and planes. And recently he shocked his friends and colleagues by saying that he is ready to donate half of his capital for charity. A family fund was established for these purposes — its mission is improving the quality of life of poor and disabled people.
Motsepe said that it was his response for the initiative of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (The Giving Pledge). American billionaires propose the wealthiest people of the world to give a considerable part of their capitals for charity.
“I am planning to donate at least a half of the capital my family owns for helping poor and outcast people” — Motsepe said. “Our traditions tell us to help those who are not so lucky in their lives.”
The businessman’s family supported his initiative. By the way, in the past his wife was the head of the Cancer Association of South Africa. Now she owns shares of the Leisureworx company which organizes “high society” events with traditional charity donations.
How do people like Motsepe become billionaires? Firstly, they have passion for what they do — and it always accompanies wealth. But the most important factor is the childhood impressions.
Patrice Motsepe was born in 1962 in Soweto, a settlement near Johannesburg, in which the black-skinned Africans were forced to live during the apartheid period. His father was a modest teacher with modest business — he opened a spaza-shop, a 24/7 home store which was selling cheap products and various utensils. The shop was very popular among black-skinned miners. Patrice helped his father in a shop, and there he received his first business lessons and knowledge of the difficult miners’ work.
But Motsepe started his career in a way that was just opposite to the emotions he received in his childhood: he obtained a degree of the bachelor of arts in the University of Swaziland. After that he obtained a qualification of a lawyer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In 1988 Motsepe entered one of the largest law companies of RSA — Bowman Gilfillan — and in 1993 he became the very first black-skinned partner in the history of this company.
His law career was on the rise and at the same time Patrice has become more and more interested in the problems of the mining industry. Meanwhile, the so-called black empowerment process — return of the rights to black-skinned people — started in RSA, including in the sphere of labor relations and entrepreneurship. Motsepe founded a small gold-mining company and implemented a combined salary system in it: basic salary plus profit-related bonuses.
In 1994 he started his independent business in the mining industry. His colleagues said that Motsepe has a six sence. In 1997 he purchased half-unkempt mines from AngloGold at a very low price and upon very beneficial conditions. He further implemented this scheme several times — a special company was established for making such deals, and at that time it became the main source of profit. In 1998, with the help of Bobby Godsell — the head of the Anglo American division in RSA — Motsepe purchased mines at the price of 8,2 million dollars and established the ARMgold company.
In 2000 he added platinum to gold: the entrepreneur established a joint venture together with the global giant Anglo Platinum and started developing the Modikwa field.
But the yellow metal stayed Motsepe’s main passion. In January 2002 he established a joint venture together with one of the world’s largest gold mining companies Harmony. This enterprise purchased several more mines from Anglo American for 190 million dollars. In a year Harmony and ARMgold were merged into a powerful conglomerate. Rebranding was completed in 2004: ARMgold acquired the Avmin mining company operating in Zambia, Congo and Namibia and was renamed to ARM — African Rainbow Minerals. In 2006 ARM became a partner of the South African coal-mining division of a diversified company Xstrata (Switzerland). According to the data as of June 30, 2014, the market capitalization of the company was 3,8 billion dollars.
They say that Patrice Motsepe managed to “catch the tide”: after the apartheid was abandoned in the RSA, black-skinned entrepreneurs received a chance and significant political preferences. They also write that one of the Motsepe sisters — who is married to an influential government member — is the head of a large mining company and one of the richest women of the country. In a word, the Motsepe family clan can obviously be called an oligarchial one. Motsepe himself agrees that he has managed to take advantage of the new system: at present there are no legal obstacles to the development of his business. But his critics forget one detail: Patrice Motsepe started his career when there were no preferences at all. In 1991 – 1992 he has already been working in the USA, in the McGuireWoods law firm. And since 1992 he started representing the interests of several mining structures in RSA.
So the keys to success are diligence and work? We cannot but recall the Gallup Institute’s survey. And we should also mention obstinacy and purposefulness: Motsepe’s father was right when he named his son Patrice, honoring Patrice Lumumba — the famous African independence leader.
Patrice has three sons, and he provided them with excellent education in the best business schools. This is probably the only personal thing for which he spent a lot of money.
Anyway, Motsepe is a real celebrity in his country. Journalists say that he can compete with his compatriot — Hollywood diva Charlize Theron — in the amount of people asking for autographs. This billionaire’s humble attraction definitely suits him.
The king of style
Another compatriot of Patrice Motsepe — Johann Rupert — has plenty of attraction as well. But we can hardly call it humble.
In 2013 the estimated capital of this South African citizen (together with his family) was 7,7 billion dollars. But the money itself is not that important — it is in what they are invested matters. And as to investments, Rupert prefers luxury.
Multibillionaire Johann Peter Rupert was born on June 1, 1950 in the family of a billionaire Anthony Edward Rupert. It seems that this piece of information is enough to tell the story of success of one of the richest Africans: his origin predetermined his destiny, he didn’t have to make any efforts. But it’s not true. At present the most stylish people of the world wear “his” watches — but Rupert’s way to success was not that easy and simple. We can also say so about the entire history of the Ruperts family which is now one of the most powerful families in RSA.
Biographers say that his father, Anthony Rupert, started with an investment of 10 dollars in 1941, and by the moment of his death at the age of 89 his capital amounted 1,7 billion dollars. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Pretoria, Anthony together with his two friends launched a cigarettes production business. At first they worked in a garage which they turned into a workshop. Years passed, and this small business turned into a tobacco concern named Rembrandt Group. In 1972 the Rothmans company started representing its interests abroad. In 1995 Rothmans International became the 4th largest cigarette manufacturer in the world. And after the merger with British American Tobacco (BAT) it is ranked second in the list of world’s top cigarette companies.
It is clear that Anthony Rupert’s tobacco business has laid a solid foundation for the prosperity of the family and the career of his elder son. But Johann Rupert was not going to sit idly by.
In early 1980s no one could imagine that Johann will totally change the line of the Ruperts family business, multiply its assets manifold and will also gain the reputation of the “king of style” far beyond the borders of his native country.
Johann Rupert learned how to do business in New York, where he worked for such companies as Chase Manhattan and Lazard Freres. In 1979 he returned home, established Rand Merchant Bank and became its CEO. He also established a corporation involved in supporting small business. Johann did not want to work for Rembrandt Group or become its head. On the one hand, even then the cigarette manufacturers were already being reminded that smoking is harmful for health. On the other part, in 1976 the UN launched the convention against apartheid. All of these factors were not beneficial for the company’s development.
Anthony Rupert decided to relocate the company’s headquarters to Switzerland. In 1988 a new subsidiary company started working in Geneva. It was named Richemont Group, and Johann Rupert governed it. At the moment of its establishment the company included three brands of jewellery and expensive watches: Dunhill, Cartier и Montblanc. Anthony Rupert acquired them “in addition” to the Rothmans deal, and it seemed that he had completely forgotten about their existence. It was his son who discovered the potential of that goldmine.
In 1988 he established a new company in Switzerland — Compagnie Financière Richemont — and focused on several areas: jewellery, watches, writing utensils, clothes and firearms. The company is listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange and Johannseburg Stock Exchange. In 2013 it became the 8th largest business structure included in the calculation of the Swiss Market Index — and the third largest company in terms of turnover in the world of top luxury companies (after LVMH Moët Hennessy — Louis Vuitton S.A. and PPR S.A).
Johann Rupert definitely has the right to be called a king of style. It’s enough to take a look at the list of companies included in his luxury empire to get rid of any doubts. Alfred Dunhill, Ltd. — clothes for men, watches, leather accessories (London); Baume et Mercier — watches (Geneva); Cartier — jewellery, watches (Paris); Chloé — clothes for women (Paris); IWC Schaffhausen (Schaffhausen); Lancel — leather accessories (Paris); Montblanc International GmbH — writing instruments, watches (Hamburg); Net-a-Porter Ltd. — online high-fashion retailer (London); Piaget S.A. — jewellery, watches (Geneva); Vacheron Constantin — watches (Geneva): Van Cleef & Arpels S.A. — jewellery, watches (Paris).
In March 2007 Richemont and Polo Ralph Lauren Inc. announced the launch of a joint venture. “When you are working on the interior of your apartment or house, you are creating your personal world. The same thing happens when you are choosing your watch” — says American fashion guru Ralph Lauren. “Your watch accentuates your style, you can even descend it to your children, and it is a perfect gift. By the way, your watch can also show time.” Watches with minimalist design and extremely complex mechanism — a project which is passionately guided by two style geniuses, Ralph Lauren and Johann Rupert. Ralph Lauren was responsible for the design itself, and the Richemont specialists were entrusted with the manufacturing issues. The price of such timepieces starts from 10 thousand euro: the crisis did not stop neither manufacturers nor retailers or clients.
People appreciate things that can serve them eternally. Johann Rupert has a professional passion for them — and not only professional. He organized the Franschhoek Motor museum in which his private collection of over 200 antique cars is stored.
And still, the king of European fashion always stays a South African. He was born in Stellenbosch, 50 kilometers from Cape Town. He spent his school years there and then studied economics and law at the local university. But he had to leave his study for a while to take up the family business. In 2004 the university honored this already successful businessman with a special degree of a Doctor of Economics. In 2008 he also received a special degree from Nelson Mandela University.
Johann Rupert has quite a lot of the honorary titles. In 1988 Sunday Times newspaper called him the Businessman of the Year. In 1990 Die Burger newspaper and the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce conferred the same title. In 1992 he was included into the list of 200 “World Leaders of Tomorrow” at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In 2000 the heads of 100 largest companies named him “The most powerful business leader” in South Africa. In 2009 the president of the French Republic conferred the Legion of Honour on him.
In addition to the “stylish things,” Johann Rupert is interested in mining, finance and industry. He is the head of the Remgro investment company. He has interest in telecommunications and commercial television as well. In 2011 he returned to the business in which he had lost interest some time ago: diamond mining.
Together with his friends Rupert founded the Institute of Science and Sports. The best golf clubs are also connected with his name — Johann is the chairman of the South African Golf Development Board.
Besides golf, he is involved in playing cricket, managing a fund for sports education for children, participating in environment protection organizations — and his family matter (the Ruperts have three children).
There are few interviews with him in the newspapers. But those few are very pointed: in 2006 the Financial Time called him “Rupert the Bear” for predicting the world economic crisis. Johann interpreted this liberty with the humour. Still usually he gives journalists no quarters. When one of the British fashion magazines called Afrikaans the ugliest language in the world, the billionaire deprived the magazine of advertising for all his fashion brands. Johann Rupert, a global citizen, is a fellow from South African Stellenbosch town all the time.