Business brass knees-up at ST awards
Billionaires, politicians and powerhouse couples gather to honour winners
Getting an award like this at only 54 [years old] is quite bizarre ... it’s almost like saying, your time is up
● A former Nedbank chair who spends time packing avocados, a powerhouse couple, SA’s health insurance king and a serial entrepreneur who compares startups to hook-ups — this year’s Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards packed a punch in attracting the who’s who of business.
We were gathered at the Empire venue in Parktown, Joburg, on a brisk Thursday evening for the annual knees-up, which this year was sponsored by info and comms technology company BCX.
Arriving on the terrace of the building, which also houses this newspaper, I spot Moeletsi Mbeki, that outspoken political economist and younger broer of former Prez Thabo, chatting to Growthpoint Properties’ Mzolisi Diliza.
In walks that Randela-sussed couple: Absa CEO Maria Ramos and her beau Trevor Manuel, who can lay claim to be our longest-running finance minister.
Then it’s hello to Goldman Sachs SA MD Colin Coleman and his partner Nerina Labuschagne, who introduce me to Discovery’s Adrian Gore, who has brought along his whole brood including his wife, Lauren, to celebrate him receiving the night’s Lifetime Achievement trophy.
I ask the actuary, who has morphed his business into a multinational financial services group with a sparkly spaceshiplooking HQ in Sandton, when that muchvaunted Discovery bank will finally roll out.
“In one week,” says the 2010 Sunday Times Business Leader of the year. “We’re on track.”
Snacking on slightly too sweet when meant to be savoury salmon-filled macaroons and a tad too sour goats cheese and olive croquettes, we head downstairs into the hall where the awards are being handed out.
En route to the far back of the room where the organisers have put me at a table all by my lonesome (not exactly ideal when you’re writing a social column), I greet undoubtedly the country’s most stylish billionaire businesswoman in the land, Sygnia Group’s Magda Wierzycka.
Accompanying her was Andrew Steyn, the head of client relations at Sygnia.
Are you back on Twitter these days, I ask the businesswoman, who faced a social media backlash after an ill-thought tweet about the Sharpeville Massacre in March.
“I am. But only sporadically,” she says. Elsewhere around the room I spot Tiso Blackstar’s head honcho, Andrew Bonamour, and two previous Lifetime Achievement recipients, Laurie
Dippenaar and Reuel Khoza, the former Nedbank chair who is now also the owner of the second-largest avo pack house in the land.
On to the awards. MC Dan Moyane kicks off the official proceedings and our ed, Bongani Siqoko, gets up on stage to welcome us, introducing himself as “the man behind all those embarrassing apologies in the Sunday Times”.
Bongani, though, does remind us of the power of the press — and encourages the business leaders in attendance to “not lose hope in journalism”.
Then it’s on to the international keynote address, and up comes someone who ignored the black-tie dress code with his jeans and tee. But then, when you’re internationally recognised as a business disruptor (who sold an app to Google for $1.1bn five years ago) who can argue?
Uri Levine, the co-founder of GPS nav service Waze, was earmarked to give us a 14-minute speech but he takes just over 40 minutes to do so, likening creating a successful business to dating. His T-shirt states that we should “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution”.
Mains arrive in the form of a succulent beef fillet with Bordelaise sauce, roast bone marrow and veg before the awards get handed out.
On to Adrian’s big moment, and the man who launched Discovery back in 1992 is in awe of the recognition when he comes up on stage to accept it.
“Getting an award like this at [only] 54 is quite bizarre,” he tells us. “It’s almost like saying — your time is up.”
The night ends on the outside terrace where desserts, including mini strawberry cheesecakes, shots of lemon mousse with ginger gel and choc brownie slices, are served.
Adrian Gore, founder and CEO of Discovery Ltd, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Moss Mashishi brought along his wife, Tsholo, who was celebrating completing her university exams that day.
Waze co-founder Uri Levine — who ignored the black-tie dress code.
Trevor Manuel and Maria Ramos at the annual Sunday Times Top 100 Companies awards.
Sygnia Group’s Magda Wierzycka with Andrew Steyn, head of client relations.
Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki withMzolisi Diliza.