Earning big bucks and packaging Zam-Buk - what we know about the new Eskom CEO

Business Insider SA
Andre de Ruyter
Andre de Ruyter (Photo: Nampak)
  • André de Ruyter beat more than 140 contenders to be appointed as Eskom's CEO.
  • De Ruyter currently heads Nampak, the largest diversified packaging company in Africa, and had a long career with Sasol.
  • He previously vehemently opposed above-inflation Eskom tariff hikes and demanded lower rates for manufacturers.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

Despite leading the largest diversified packaging company on the continent, André de Ruyter’s appointment to Eskom CEO was widely met with blank stares.

The market was expecting Andy Calitz, a South African-born Shell executive and engineer who has managed some of the biggest energy projects in the world.

While De Ruyter’s credentials may not be as sterling, it’s not difficult to see how his mix of skills put him ahead of the more than 140 other candidates for SA’s toughest job.

He has solid experience in both the worlds of energy – he worked for Sasol for most of his career – and a sector that is critically dependent on uninterrupted, affordable electricity: manufacturing.

In the past, he vehemently opposed above-inflation Eskom tariff hikes and demanded that the utility should address its own inefficiencies before it recovers losses from its customers.

De Ruyter also wanted government to lower electricity rates to industry, and as a former chairperson of the Manufacturing Circle, he blamed high energy costs, in part, for the shrinking manufacturing sector, which currently contributes to around 10% of South Africa’s GDP, from 24% three decades ago. Bolstering manufacturing to 28% could create more than 1 million jobs, he argued.

Here’s what else we know about him:

He studied law and received an MBA in the Netherlands

Pretoria-born De Ruyter holds a BA degree from the University of Pretoria, an LLB from Unisa and an MBA from Nijenrode University in the Netherlands.

He worked for Sasol in China and the US

De Ruyter has held various positions in Sasol Mining, Sasol Oil, Sasol Gas and Sasol Synfuels International, and lead the development of Sasol's synthetic fuel plant in China. He is credited to leading a turnaround project to restore Sasol Olefins and Surfactants to profitability. He also headed Sasol’s North American operations, and was in charge of the initial stages of the eventually ill-fated  Lake Charles Chemicals Project.

Mboweni got to know De Ruyter at Nampak

Finance minister Tito Mboweni joined Nampak in 2010 as chairperson, four years before De Ruyter was appointed as CEO.  They worked together until Mboweni resigned as chair last year on his return to public service.

Dr Reuel Khoza, who recently joined the  Public Investment Corporation as chair, also served on the Nampak board with them.

De Ruyter is in charge of packaging everything from cigarettes to Zam-Buk

Nampak is Africa's largest diversified packaging manufacturer, and has been listed on the JSE for fifty years. It has 25 factories in South Africa, which contributes 60% of its income, as well as 18 sites in the rest of Africa, and 8 in the UK. Nampak has some 5,600 employees – compared to Eskom’s 47,000 workers.

The company provides plastic and carton packaging, as well as canned goods and beverages, which produce the majority of its revenue. It packages a wide range of products, including top cigarette and cold-drink brands, as well as motor oil and a favourite South Africa substance, Zam-Buk, as Business Day recently reported.

Nampak has been going through very tough times, due in part to the weak local economy and struggles in African markets. 

In response, De Ruyter has shut factories, simplified Nampak's product lines and sold off some of its interests, including most recently its glass business.

"I look forward to a far simpler business with the ability to unlock value and pursue further growth opportunities in South Africa and Africa," he told an event at Gordon Institute of Business Science.  

De Ruyter has also been pushing the business away from plastic, and towards more sustainable products, including a new “plastic” lid made with sugar cane.

De Ruyter earned more than R18m at Nampak

According to the Nampak annual report, De Ruyter earned almost R18.3m in 2018. His predecessor at Eskom, Phakamani Hadebe earned less than half of that amount last year, and De Ruyter has already agreed to take a pay cut, the department of public enterprises confirmed.

He supported Pravin Gordhan

De Ruyter was one of 81 CEOs who pledged support to the former finance minister as he faced fraud charges in 2016. Gordhan was fired by former president Jacob Zuma anyway.

Home life

De Ruyter is married, has three children, and lives in the north of Johannesburg.

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