Africa's New Richest Person: 5 Things You Didn't Know about
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African CEOs - June 20, 2023

Africa’s New Richest Person: 5 Things You Didn’t Know about Johann Rupert

Johann Rupert, a prominent South African billionaire and business tycoon, recently emerged as Africa’s new richest person, capturing the attention of the global business community. Rupert, who has been South Africa’s richest man for years, is leading the continent with a net worth of 11.7 billion.

While Rupert’s immense wealth and success are well-known, there are several lesser-known aspects of his life that reveal the depth of his character and accomplishments. 

In this article, we will delve into fascinating facts about Johann Rupert that shed light on his personal journey, interests, and contributions to both the business world and society at large. 

Rupert is a school dropout

Rupert who recently displaced Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian billionaire, dropped out of the university to pursue his business career. Reports say he was a student at the University of Stellenbosch before he made the decision that has earned him international recognition today. 

His university however gave him an honorary doctorate in Economics. Rupert’s business career began in New York City, where he worked for Chase Manhattan and for Lazard Freres.

His networth is a product of many ventures

Rupert started out by disrupting the banking sector when he created the Rand Merchant Bank in the 1970s. Speaking about how Rand Merchant Holdings made it, Rupert said, “We went to all the big companies – Anglo, etcetera – and we told them that we would do these payments at lower rates. There were no Reserve Bank requirements on promissory notes, so with a capital of about R1.8 million, we wrote over R200 million in business.”

He also derives his wealth from a 76 per cent stake in Compagnie Financiere Richemont, a leading Swiss-based luxury holding company. Rupert established Richemont in 1988, by spinning off international assets owned by his father’s company, Rembrandt Group Ltd. (now Remgro Ltd.) 

Rupert also owns a 25 per cent stake in Reinet Investments. His other investments include his stake in First Rand Limited and Remgro. Rupert also assumed leadership of the Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons and L’Ormarins wine estate when his younger brother, Anthonij, died in 2001 in a car accident.

He is a passionate lover of sports

Johann played cricket throughout his youth. He is also an avid golfer who developed one of the top three golf courses in South Africa — Leopard Creek Golf Club in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Expressing his love for sports he founded the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in 1980. 

The foundation funds dozens of projects annually, using sports to tackle social issues and help underprivileged children. Johann who also owns part of the Saracens English Rugby Team plays in the annual Gary Player Invitational golf tournament that raises money for children’s charities.

As chairman for both the South African PGA Tour and the South African Golf Development Board, Johann has been inducted into the South African Golf Hall of Fame.

Rupert firmly opposes fracking

South Africa’s richest man owns land in the Karoo, a desert and semi-desert region in South Africa. According to reports, plans are underway to begin fracking on his Karoo land. But, Johann has vowed to take on oil giant Shell to oppose its shale gas development. 

Fracking is a newfound economic feasibility which uses high-pressure injection of chemicals, sand and vast quantities of water to force the free flow of gas from shale.

Rupert boldly criticises South African Leadership

When it comes to criticising the South African government, Johann has always been very bold. He once accused the leadership of the African National Congress, ANC of failing to address corruption and infrastructure deficiencies. 

Speaking at Remgro’s annual general meeting in November 2014, he said, “The leadership of this country, quite frankly, is becoming very, very hard to defend abroad. The people who are running the country now were not given proper education. Wherever you look we have got stagnation and really worrying signs…I’m concerned that we are not prioritizing the right things. We picked low-hanging fruit for a very long time. Those trees are now starting to run empty. How can a person not have electricity? How can we create jobs?”

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