Nathan Kirsh
Home Industry How African Billionaire Nathan Kirsh Made His Fortune from the Hospitality Industry
Industry - January 12, 2022

How African Billionaire Nathan Kirsh Made His Fortune from the Hospitality Industry

Despite a $260-million decrease in his net worth, Kirsh remains one of Africa's wealthiest billionaires.

Nathan “Natie” Kirsh was born in South Africa on the 6th of January, 1932 in Potchefstroom. He earned a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of the Witwatersrand, in 1952. He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Swaziland.

The Business Endeavours of Nathan Kirsh

Kirsh joined his mother in running his father’s original malt factory in Porchefstroom, in 1952. Down the line, he launched his own business, a corn milling and malt business in Eswatini, a country in Southern Africa.

Having returned to his hometown South Africa in 1970, Kirsh acquired Moshal Gevisser, a local wholesale food distributor with a pilot cash and carry programme. This was at a time when the South African apartheid government barred white business-owners from trading in black townships. As a result, Kirsh began using Moshal Gevisser to supply goods to black shopkeepers. As a cash and carry business, it became a dominant food retailer in South Africa.

Kirsh launched Jetro, cash and carry business in Brooklyn, New York, in June 1976.  He bought Restaurant Depot in 1994, and in 1995, launched its first New York retail outlet.  Jetro and Restaurant Depot became sister companies under Jetro Holdings.  Warren Buffett agreed to acquire a minority stake in Jetro Holdings in 2003, but he and Kirsh couldn’t come to an agreement on terms. Kirsh held 75 percent of Jetro Holdings, which operated 115 Jetro Cash & Carry and Restaurant Depot locations in the United States as of August 2018.

He also bought Magal Security Systems from Israel Aerospace Industries in the late 1970s, and the firm was listed on Nasdaq in 1993.   In 2009, Kirsh was a director and had a 24.2 percent share in Magal Security, a company that was criticised for erecting fences in Israel.  Kirsh sold his 40% ownership in Magal to FIMI in 2014. Kirsh left South Africa in 1986 after selling some of his businesses to Sanlam, a local insurance firm.

In 2006, Mira Mag and Ki Corporation were two of his businesses. By 2008, he had an interest in Minerva through Kifin Limited, a subsidiary of Ki Corporation, and had dropped a bid for controlling ownership in 2010.

Kirsh has retail and property holdings in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Swaziland as of early 2018. In March 2019, Bloomberg assessed his net worth to be $6.09 billion, placing him #267 on its global “Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.” He was also named the 31st richest person in the United Kingdom in the Sunday Times Rich List 2018, with an estimated worth of £3.9 billion and was ranked the richest person in Swaziland by Forbes in 2019. Kirsh was ranked 614th on Forbes’ list of The World’s Billionaires for 2020, with a fortune of US$4 billion.

Nathan Kirsh recently lost $260 million, but his billionaire status remains unshaken

In the past week, Nathan Kirsh recorded a $260-million decline in his net worth as the value of his interests in his conglomerate Kirsh Group declined. Despite the decrease in his net worth, Kirsh remains one of Africa’s wealthiest billionaires. He is the world’s 329th wealthiest man, with a net worth of $8.09 billion.

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