Don’t be ‘Gun­delfin­gered’

Finweek English Edition - - Cover -

BILLY GUN­DELFIN­GER

has built an out­stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion in di­vorce and crim­i­nal cases in­volv­ing high-profile peo­ple and celebri­ties. He’s con­se­quently re­garded as a daz­zling celebrity lawyer. De­spite spend­ing most of his time with celebri­ties, Gun­delfin­ger is very ap­proach­able and af­fa­ble.

Gun­delfin­ger, who started his own gen­eral prac­tice at the age of 23 in 1975 with a R5 000 bank over­draft, doesn’t see him­self re­tir­ing from his pro­fes­sion. In those early days he was of­ten stuck in traf­fic with­out petrol. “It was ini­tially dif­fi­cult to build the prac­tice,” he says.

His prac­tice is based at his of­fice in Nor­wood in an old Vic­to­rian house with orig­i­nal pressed ceil­ings, wooden floors, Ore­gon pine doors and lead glass win­dows bought 24 years ago, hav­ing con­vinced the owner to sell af­ter knock­ing on the door un­in­vited. Gun­delfin­ger

now dom­i­nates many high­pro­file and celebrity cases. He’s rep­re­sented Cyril Ramaphosa (chair­man of Shan­duka), Pas­tor Ray McCauley (pas­tor at Rhema Min­istries), Khaya Ngqula (CE of SA Air­ways) and Bill Ven­ter (chair­man of the Al­tron Group). He charges his clients R2 500/hour – plus VAT.

Both his par­ents, who were Holo­caust sur­vivors, set­tled in SA. He grew up in a flat in Sun­rise Court in the sub­urb of Bertrams, east of Jo­han­nes­burg, sur­rounded by poverty. He re­alised that the only way to tran­scend that back­ground was through ed­u­ca­tion. His in­ter­est in law be­gan in Stan­dard Nine at Athlone Boys’ High School, when he stud­ied mer­can­tile law.

He’s syn­ony­mous with high-profile cases. He says: “All over the world when celebri­ties get di­vorced they cap­ture the me­dia spot­light – and we as lawyers are caught up in the flash.”

With the me­dia frenzy prompted by high profile peo­ple, jour­nal­ists re­port­ing on his clients don’t bother Gun­delfin­ger. He says: “For­tu­nately, Sec­tion 12 of the Di­vorce Act lim­its jour­nal­ists on what they can re­port – which I think is a good thing, be­cause it pro­tects chil­dren.”

Gun­delfin­ger smiles at the sug­ges­tion that he’s widely re­garded as SA’s top celebrity di­vorce lawyer. He re­sponds: “I’m flat­tered to hear that.”

Among his many af­fil­i­a­tions, he’s chair­man of the board of the Univer­sity of South Africa (Unisa), a coun­cil­lor for and chair­man of Fam­ily Law of the Law So­ci­ety. “I’ve al­ways en­joyed mak­ing a mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion.”

Gun­delfin­ger says that a good lawyer keeps abreast of the law, is fair and rea­son­able, acts in his clients’ best in­ter­ests, and the chil­dren’s wel­fare is paramount. By all ac­counts, Gun­delfin­ger, who thinks of him­self as a pub­lic-spir­ited per­son, meets those cri­te­ria.

He’s al­ways been pas­sion­ate about SA. He be­lieves he’s mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in his en­deav­ours, whether in his prac­tice or as Unisa chair­man or his in­volve­ment with the Law So­ci­ety.

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