Busi­ness brass knees-up at ST awards

Bil­lion­aires, politi­cians and pow­er­house cou­ples gather to hon­our win­ners

Sunday Times - - Business The A-listers - with Craig Ja­cobs ja­cobsc@sun­day­times.co.za

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.

Pic­ture: Alon Skuy

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.

Pic­ture: Alon Skuy

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.

Pic­tures: John Lieben­berg

Po­lit­i­cal econ­o­mist Moeletsi Mbeki withMzolisi Diliza.

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