Profile: Christo Wiese built retailer for all playing fields
CHRISTO Wiese had been speaking to his friend Markus Jooste about combining their retailers for years. Three days ago, he was confident enough to celebrate the $5.7 billion (R62.5bn) deal by lighting his barbecue.
“I thought in terms of building a really world-class discount retailer, the two businesses would make an excellent fit,” Wiese said yesterday. “I was having a braai at home” when the deal was completed, he said, using the Afrikaans word for a cook-off.
The billionaire owner of South African clothes retailer Pepkor Holdings agreed to sell to Steinhoff International Holdings in the country’s biggest takeover for more than a decade. The combined company will have more than 6 000 stores across three continents and plans to become one of the top five discount retailers in the world.
Wiese, one of South Africa’s richest men with a fortune of about $5.6bn, hammered out the deal with Steinhoff chief executive Jooste, a friend and business partner for 20 years.
He would remain a Steinhoff shareholder with a stake worth about R34.7bn, the company said.
Pepkor will assist Steinhoff in its goal to tap further into discount retailing in South Africa as more shoppers seek value amid high inflation and a 25 percent unemployment rate.
South African retailers have struggled this year as the economy is set to grow at its slowest pace in five years.
Steinhoff is “the sort of company that can really go places, they’ve carved a niche for themselves in the world where they play”, Wiese said. “They are the second-largest furniture retailer in Europe, that’s quite an achievement for a business from South Africa.”
Wiese was born in the Northern Cape in 1941 and started working as an executive director at Pep Stores, then a small clothing chain that would grow to become Pepkor, in the 1960s. After a brief interlude in diamond mining, he returned as chairman in 1980 and took
He keeps a low profile considering his wealth and investment in South African business.
the company public six years later.
By then Pepkor had bought grocer Shoprite Holdings, which was later spun off and is now Africa’s biggest retailer by market value. Wiese had equity in both companies and now owns a stake in Shoprite valued at about $1.3bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires’ index.
“He’s been a remarkably successful businessman and built a retailer that contends with the big players,” Wayne McCurrie, a money manager at Momentum Asset Management, said. “He keeps a low profile considering his wealth and investment in South African businesses.”
The owner of a game reserve in the Kalahari desert and 1 618-hectare wine estate outside Cape Town, his stake in Pepkor was valued at $2.5bn as of Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
His net worth increased by 12 percent yesterday, or $610 million. – Bloomberg
Billionaire businessman Christo Wiese