Executive Insights

These ultra-rich South African business people have seen a massive jump in their wealth – and one of them may surprise you

Business Insider SA
Christo Wiese (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)
  • The City Press Wealth Index shows that, in rand terms, Christo Wiese saw the biggest jump in value of his JSE holdings since 2008 - despite the Steinhoff meltdown.
  • Capitec founder Michiel le Roux's investments grew the most in percentage terms - more than 2,400%.
  • Only 17% of the executives in the top 200 were black, compared to almost 20% a decade ago.

The City Press Wealth Index, compiled by Who Owns Whom, was released recently and offers fascinating insights into the accumulation of wealth among South African business people.

The index ranks the 200 wealthiest directors of JSE-listed companies according to the shares they owned at the end of March. The list only focuses on their shares, no other assets.

Read: These are SA’s top 20 richest execs – they are worth far more than the country’s total budget for social grants

The survey charts the growth in holdings, with Capitec founder Michiel le Roux’s investment holdings jumping by 2,445% between March 2008 and March 2018 – the largest percentage increase among the top 200. His shareholdings are currently worth almost R11.6 billion. Naspers director and former finance head Stephan Pacak was in second place, with an increase of almost 2,000%, to R1.9 billion, according to the report.

In rand terms, FirstRand founder Laurie Dippenaar saw the second-largest increase in his holdings, with a R13.5 billion bump to R15.8 billion over the past decade.

Laurie Dippenaar

The biggest gainer in rand terms may surprise some: Christo Wiese, whose Steinhoff woes have been well-documented. According to the City Press Wealth Index, Wiese’s holdings increased from R3.9 billion to R32.8 billion over the past decade.

As recently as in 2016, Forbes estimated that his total wealth was around R80 billion ($5.8 billion). But that was before Steinhoff’s share price collapsed by 96% since December. Wiese, who owns a large stake in Shoprite, became Steinhoff’s largest shareholder after selling Pepkor to the company in 2014.

The City Press Wealth Index shows that the top 200 directors collectively increased the value of their holdings by 63% since 2008 – in comparison the average South African adult’s wealth rose by only 29%, according to the Global Wealth Databook produced annually by Credit Suisse.

Other insights from the report include: 

Executives are getting younger.
The average age of a top 200 director fell from 64.5 to just below 57 since 2008.

Fewer women.
There are currently only 7 women in the top 200, down from 9 ten years ago.

Fewer black top-paid directors.
Only 17% of the top 200 directors were black, compared to almost 20% a decade ago. Also, their investment holdings declined. Holdings of black directors fell from 23.5% of the combined top 200 holdings to less than 10%.

According to the lead researcher on the project, economist Jeremy Dobbin of Who Owns Whom, the combined value of the 200 largest holdings now makes up 2.7% of the total JSE market captalisation. In 2008, the 200 largest holdings made up 4.6% of the total market cap.

“This seems to suggest that the concentration of wealth amongst the ultra-wealthy has been diluted somewhat, or perhaps that their wealth has been diversified away from the listed shares of the companies they are directors of,” says Dobbin.

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