Adrian Gardiner, owner of the Mantis collection (s
Adrian Gardiner, owner of the Mantis collection (supplied)
  • Adrian Gardiner made use of tax breaks created to encourage certain lines of business to expand into other fields.
  • This led to the creation of the Mantis collection with five-star hotels on every continent, even in Antartica.
  • Gardiner believes there’s nothing wrong using tax breaks, but everything wrong with not paying taxes.

The "crime of all crimes" for an entrepreneur is paying unnecessary tax, Adrian Gardiner, founder of luxury hotel group Mantis Collection.

Speaking on VIA (DStv channel 147)’s personal-finance show Geldhelde, Gardiner explained how he built a business by managing his taxes carefully.

“When you are in business, tax is like being married, you pay tax for the rest of your life, it is not going to go away,” Gardiner said.

“Take the proper professional advice, there’s nothing wrong with tax avoidance but there’s everything wrong with tax evasion, so let’s pay tax but let’s not pay unnecessary tax.”

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Gardiner founded Mantis collection in 2000 after the exponential growth of the Shamwari Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

“We needed our own brand, so from the year 2000 we created the Mantis name basically meaning man and nature together to sustain the world.”

In 1979, he used tax incentives from his businesses at the time – a transport business and a crane business – to fund a stud farm in Plettenberg Bay.

A room in Mantis' Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve i
A room in Mantis' Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (Facebook, The Mantis Collection)

He went on to breed horses that would go on to win eight races as well as a range of awards. In doing so, he effectively used tax benefits from one business to fund another profitable business.

“If you think about the tax regime as it was then, it was appropriate because if you make money in one of those businesses you can put it in another business and offset it. Agriculture was best to do that in,” Gardiner said.  

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Almost a decade after starting his stud farm, Gardiner got a good offer on the land and sold his horses.

He used this money to buy Shamwari in Port Elizabeth in 1989.

The Shamwari Reserve is privately owned, breaking a pattern of government-subsidised National Parks, which allowed it to make money from pricey safari packages and take advantage of tax breaks for its conservation efforts.

From there Gardiner started to gradually acquire more properties with five-star hotels on every continent – even in Antartica.

Geldhelde airs every Tuesday at 20:30 on VIA (DSTV channel 147) with repeats on Wednesdays at 08:30 and Sundays at 19:30.

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