That’s no criticism of Lamberti – he is obsessed with value creation, is ferociously ethical in his dealings, and has an unwavering commitment to SA as demonstrated through his tireless campaigning against rampant crime rates.
Imperial is lucky to have him. He will be just the third CEO in the history of the company, which started out of a single motor dealership by founder Bill Lynch, who first bought 10% of the company in 1973 and set about creating a diversified conglomerate. Hubert Brody took over when Lynch became ill and died of cancer five years ago and has set about consolidating the diverse business and giving the multiple brands owned by the group a single Imperial identity.
Lamberti will be looking to put his stamp on a business at a difficult point in the cycle. The new boss at Naspers*, Bob van Dijk, only joined the group six months ago. Netherlands-based Van Dijk was previously head of eBay in Germany and joined the media and ecommerce group in August 2013 as CEO of online classifieds business Allegro. Koos Bekker, easily one of the longest-serving CEOs on the JSE, having started in 1997, is taking another year off to explore the world of technology before he returns to chair the business when exjournalist and previous CEO Ton Vosloo steps down a year from now.
He previously took a year off in 2007 and when he returned in 2008, Naspers was trading at around 16 000c. It is now eight times that level. Can shareholders expect the same? Bekker as chairman will be at HQ in Cape Town and Van Dijk after a year to settle in will be based outside the traditional centre of power. It’s not a problem, says Bekker: “We’re a nomadic lot really. It doesn’t matter where you send your emails from, as long as you turn up for the meetings wherever they are being held in the world.”
*Finweek is a Media24 publication, which is a subsidiary of Naspers.