How Shoprite Chairman Christo Wiese made his billions

a place called para industria if you

drive along the into and then turn left

it's about 20 minutes from Cape Town it

I suppose it can be described as an

unfashionable suburb and yet here I am

in the office of the world's three

hundred and sixty seventh richest man

and the richest man in South Africa

apparently apparently this gentleman is

worth around seven billion US dollars

that's according to Forbes magazine

whether that's true I don't know but

anyway you get the picture this

gentleman could be in a penthouse office

in the center of Cape Town looking over

all the beautiful beaches of camps bay

and Table Mountain and even see to the

Winelands where he owns a wine estate

called loans for Billy chooses not to

Crysta visa why do you stay in power

industrial well you know I believe that

if one is involved in business you've

got to kind operate within an area with

is an atmosphere of business I have at

times thought that I would like to have

my personal offices on the estate for

instance in Loudoun psmith but a friend

of mine pointed out that then when I get

to the office in the morning I'll worry

about whether the loan had been cut

properly or whether the flowers in the

bed outside my office are okay you've

got to be in a business environment

that's one aspect the other is you know

purely an excellent of easly we bought a

company that owned this huge building in

peril I made my office yet and it just

stayed that way isn't is it also to do

with the fact I mean there's another

family not far from here that made its

money a good chunk of its money anyway

from luxury goods and serving the upper

end of the market

you have served traditionally and served

the world the lower two lower middle

class end of the market do you feel that

this grounds you and makes you closer to

the people you actually serve it

certainly does have that benefit as well

in fact I have a friend who is a very

well-known politician who always

delights in telling people you know

Christo has these offices in a Township

because right across the road from

without building is he's a Township and

you still drive your car here absolutely

did it throughout the turbulent years in

1985 1986 when there were lots of street

protests burning diets and things people

would phoned me from abroad and say but

do you still go to your office that I

haven't Vettes anything I come here

early in the morning drive home late at

night that has never affected me what is

it about stellenbosch Krista because

there are so many people that I

interview in my job every couple of

weeks someone from stellenbosch has done

something extraordinary I mean you know

they're right at the top of the business

strata who I'm talking about but what is

it about stellenbosch is it an Afrikaner

stock thing is it a education

institution thing is it the wine there

must be something around here that it

produces these extraordinary

entrepreneurs well I think that you know

all these elements obviously have some

impact on it but I think if you take one

step back you see a very interesting

picture emerging as far as the South

African business seen today is concerned

the most prominent people the names

you've always read about are 80 plus

percent Afrikaans that is a complete

reversal from 30 or 40 years ago where

they were a few Afrikaans business

luminaries but the bulk were English

speaking or Jewish today

it's African speaking and black now what

is the reason for that if you go in my

view it is these people of which I

suppose I'm one in this new wave is like

third-generation Afrikaans

business people industrialists you know

before the Second World War the African

speaking people were mainly on the

agricultural side of the economy and

these people started coming through they

went to good schools put universities at

a tight theater there's nothing else

there is nothing in the water that's

telling boss that makes it different

family in business I think it

characterized this office

because it's a business like office and

yet I look around and there are at least

2530 pictures of your lovely family

they're the two main things in your life

they are certainly I bid with family

being number one hmm

yeah so you're not a flashy person I'm

trying to get to the the roots of what

Chris Teresa is and I'll give you an

example now let's say there was a deal

that you'd been had in your mind for

quite a while and it was your deal yeah

and people said no don't bother with

this deal because you can't achieve it

anyway but you went and you've hurdled

all the barriers and the deal came off

and you made a million round out of it

it was just you and there's another deal

and these people walk into your office

and they put all your cohorts they put

it on a piece of paper on your desk and

they say just sign here this is a

billion dollar a deal it's all done

we've done it you saying thank you very

much which would you prefer to do the

mail that the money or the deal well I

mean obviously both are important

because I mean presumably the object of

the deal is money at the end of the day

so they are both important but the

thrill of being involved in putting the

deal together overcoming the obstacles

that you refer to up is an important

part of it today the way the businesses

have developed I've got colleagues that

are a lot smarter than I am

that are totally up to speed with all

the regulations and all the laws and all

the accounting principles that one has

to adhere to these days so many times

they do the bulk of the work but you

know overall when we strategize and

we've got to clear the concept I'm very

much involved

you mentioned money and I want to

mention money now because you can't

ignore that you are the three hundred

and sixty seventh richest man in the

world and there's no man or woman in

South Africa that is richer than you how

does that make you feel first question

and secondly why do you keep on doing

deals you can't spend that money you've

got three children and an extended

family of L's and they can't spend that

money why more money now but Lindy you

know once you go beyond a fairly modest

sum of money in in South Africa

it becomes marginal being there the old

story you can only eat three meals that

I sleep in one bed etcetera etcetera so

it's not about what the money can buy

clearly not plus you know I like to

think of myself as a person who is non

fleshy I certainly have a wife who has

great problems with any ostentatious

display of wealth and our children grew

up that way and I'm so therefore I'm

that way inclined anyway but I suppose

at the end of the day it becomes a

measure a yardstick of you know whether

you've done well or not so well it's not

about you know to say well you know I've

got so much money but the fact of the

matter is most of each people have

assets you know which is different from

having money I know what you're saying

and I won't dwell on that too much apart

from saying one thing I did a piece on

philanthropy the other day and it was

Andrew Carnegie I can't remember exactly

what his quote was but it was something

to do with the man can't be rich and

less see in enriches other and others

and people like Warren Buffett for

example have pledged to give away 85

percent and so that is one of the great

things about having enormous wealth you

can still be very wealthy but give it

away what is your attitude towards that

no I in broad terms agree with that I do

have a very strong Calvinist streak I

think that you know I one of the driving

forces in my life was I wanted my

children to have a better life than

perhaps I had and I had a good life but

you know you want better for your

children because your standards increase

as your experience and your wealth grow

and so I have that Calvinistic so I'm

not really going to land in a camp too

quickly that proposes giving everything

away but when you talk about enriching

other people's lives that for me has

also been a driver in my business

development we employ a

the larger group 300,000 people many of

those people I started with as a

youngster and I saw them develop as

people and how their families through

their involvement in the business also

had a better life that that is a more

important way of enriching people's

lives I believe than just dishing out

money quite right in fact when I ever

speak to YTB son of ShopRite see one of

your colleagues one of the first things

he ever says is this is how many jobs

we've created and this is the engagement

I've had with government is that your

attitude as well absolutely you know you

and I spoke earlier on before we started

the interview about the negative

headlines that you always get when a

mine retrench is ten thousand people

it's on the front page of every

newspaper our group creates more than

12,000 new job opportunities every year

you never read about that night Richard

we've got to now go through your

business and life history you went to

pal boys high stellenbosch degrees then

you studied law at the Cape Bar you

could have taken a safe job I mean you

really could have done you could have

you could have been a nine to five or an

eight to six person but you decided not

to why was that well it was livid on the

Agena I never saw myself as the kind of

person who'd go to the office at 9

o'clock go home at 5:00 and mow the lawn

but that that was just not me the second

time you mention lawns by the way so

frustrating Gardner I am I am but really

frustrated one was I know nothing about

gardening except that it appeals to me

when it's beautiful yes but then I

suppose Lindsey the fact is I grew up in

a business home in a small town my dad

had a business and he was a farmer and

eventually my mother had her own

business so there was always this kind

of sense of being involved in business

and then like most things in life I do

believe that there is fate

you know you things happen at a

particular time in your life

and you see an opportunity and if your

personality is that way inclined you'll

and where you ultimately find yourself I

have great difficulty with people who

suggest that their business development

happened in terms of some kind of

blueprint that's nonsense nobody has a

blueprint business is ultimately

opportunistic you're in the arena and

opportunity comes by and you try to

exploit it and it's also to do with

chance meetings it's not randomness of

course because you have to be in the

right place at the right time to

increase your possibility of having that

opportunistic business opportunity but

that's the way it works yeah and

absolutely the way hmm we are going to

take a break now and after the break

Christo we are going to talk about

Christo visas development with pep and

pep core and and ShopRite and stein off

and in Victor and Breit and all sorts of

other things so please stay with us


welcome back home with Chris Teresa in

his office in power industrial we've

been talking about all sort of esoteric

aspects of his business philosophy and

one thing that Christo said before the

break was that there's no blueprint to

business success it's not random either

but certainly it's not all planned and

it's not all smooth so tell me about pep

and your parents please Chris all right

now my dad had a garage in Abington and

he also had a farm and across the road

from East garage was another garage

owned by a friend who age-wise was

between myself and my dad and he was

very friendly with linear Thunder wind

who was the founder of PIP and arguably

one of South Africa's great

entrepreneurs started in a little shop I

mean no bigger than five by 10 meters

that's where it all started

now you saw nothing to get up in them

now relief Android was married to a

cousin of mine so we knew him and we

kind of were aware of his little

business but on one particular day I was

at home or home in uppington on holiday

from university I walked across the road

to this friend's garage and he mentioned

to me he said you know this renewed

father is really beginning to go places

this is now were three or four jobs I

believe he wants to go national

and he's looking for investors and it

was cool pep and it was called know that

time not yet called pip okay and I

listened with interest and that evening

I spoke to my dad that's it you know we

should speak to the need and find out

and to cut a long story short my dad

sold his businesses and invested in pip

went on the board and the arrangement

was that when I graduate from university

I would join the business which is what

happened now I told the story to a

friend one day I said you know how would

my life have developed differently

if I had not walked across that road on

that particular day was it was something

we were aware of but we didn't focus on


he made me focus and made my dad focus

and we took a decision now at the risk

of sounding arrogant or conceited when I

told this friend the story he said no

Chris are you the type of guy you would

have walked across another Street which

innocence is true people who are have a

certain philosophy certain approach to

life they walk across street so you're

curious have across opportunity you're a

curious person yeah all the time

did retail appealed to you at any time

before he walked across the street and

knew that your father's friend and his

rival businessman had a retail operation

yeah it's always been in my family you

know my father grew up in the really

tough years I mean the Depression years

and so forth yeah in South Africa he was

born in 1906 and went through the

drought and the depression and all that

sort of stuff but he always had his own

little business and it always had an

element of retail I mean a garage is

just a retail about the dealership mmm

just a retail business then after pep

you invested in your friend's business

which wasn't that then cool pet became

cool pet and then what happened after


well I be that went on a very aggressive

expansion phase I joined the business

full-time in 1967 were you behind the

aggressive expansion phase or was it

your father no it was driven by the

founder by the need fund ruin but with

very enthusiastic support from myself it

you know my dad was in those days

somebody at the age of 60 was considered

already you know retirement age so my

dad was there in the background giving

encouragement and support but really the

main driver was was the founder and with

as I say very enthusiastic support for

myself then we got to fast forward

bit now we could do three hours on this

story but let's move on to shop right

one million round that was a lot of

money in those days it was a lot of

money yeah a lot of money the actual

purchase price was two million land but

the company had a million land in the

bank so NIT we bought a hundred percent

the purchase price NIT was 1 million

left did you miss Africa me walk across

the street and see shop right how did it


no it didn't at that time when shop

light was bought I was practicing law at

the Kate bar because I lift for the

spell from about 90 73 to 77 1973 74

until 1980 81 was that a black reacting

in order for you to have the skills that

you might need in your future career no

that wasn't the consideration at all the

reason I went to the bar is to practice

at the bar is by that time in South

African terms and in my environment I'd

become a wealthy man through the listing

of bit on the Jersey my first love I

always thought was the law the theatrics

and the intellectual stimulation and


appealed to me plus I was hoping to get

married to my wife and she I don't think

the marriage would have worked because I

was away from home 20 days a year while

I was working for Pitt they are

traveling the country opening stores

signing leases and so forth I mean

that's a way to start a marriage so I

thought well you know I got enough money

I can now you know stay to operate with

my friends at the bar enjoy life and

marry the girl of my dreams so that was

the the driver was not preparing myself

for a bigger role in business apart from

the man is driven in business and likes

retail and walks across streets

metaphorically and physically also a

romantic and a person that likes

theatricals and wants to go into a job

the way you dress up and wear wigs and

that sort of thing

and you speak you know very formally and

you are addressed very formally and you

have all this intellectual stimulation

that aren't you all the time mmm okay

shop right now again to go I want to get

forward to the the Virgin active and the

new-look business with with with rape

but to get to shop right now that's a

phenomenal story and also okay okay was

involved just after shop right yeah well

you know shop right when we bought it

I think owned six supermarkets renewed

fund ruin again add the brilliance to

appoint a very young YT person yes to

run that now there again comes the

opportunistic element comes into it

because one of the founders of shop

light was a born praedyth chap called

Barney Robert Masons passed away and he

and whitey person in spite of a vast

difference in age and inexperience and

in educational qualifications but Barney

was the sort of guide left school at the

age of fifteen whitey was a fully

qualified CA but the two of them got on

like a house on fire proverbial and just

got this business going and again I must

take a little bit of credit with some

hesitation when I became chairman in

1981 which is only two years later yes

whitey and I were good friends at

University and have been very close

friends for 50 years I I think offered a

very valuable support base for whitey to

really get going but ultimately the

credit for the exponential growth of

shop rag belongs to whitey and his team

and Barney Rogan hmm okay the s Abram in

SA Bruce has been in the SABMiller has

been in the news so much listen can you

believe that company one point four

trillion what an astonishing story

astonish another great sets of F and

success story people

- si B because they used to own okay and

you bought it for one rent that's


interesting story when I grew up the

retail scene in South Africa was

dominated by the ok bazaars I mean that

was like you know so far number one that

nobody else came close and you know the

history because of exchange control it

ate rats it I mean it's a breweries got

into businesses far removed from their

core business one of which was ok

bazaars when it was run by by a con who

subsequently became head of his

annuities it was a great business but

when he left the business declined and

it was losing money now if you run the

sums it's quite interesting

yes a brewery was trading the share was

trading if I remember correctly at a

twenty PE ok bazaars was losing two

hundred million rand a year times 20 is

4 billion rand of shareholders value yes

that up in smoke so by my ik on selling

oakley was asked to ask for one Rand and

what people always forget part of the

deal was they had to be 1 billion reigns

worth of net assets so in truth we never

paid around

we got a billion right for buying the

business but was a brilliant decision on

their part because they took a 200

million and loss out of the equation the

rest is history of course and we want to

come to recent history because we're

running out of time sadly and brait this

is one of these situations where the

market got it completely wrong the share

price came down enormous ly after that

disposal and all that casting around

people say we must punish you because

you've got all that cash and then

suddenly virgin a new look and goodness

knows what else in the future that's a

great story I mean I can't believe that

thing went from 60 or 70 up to 140 150

but I've been Lindsay the true story

that when the new blade was established

in 2011 why do I say the new brain

until 2011 right was a typical private

equity fund manager managing other

people's funds in private equity deals

right John Nora the CEO bright and I got

together and we decided that there is a

better model an investment holding

company model where we invest our own

capital we then went on a capital

raising exercise which had a rights

issue which I under oath which was very

successful we now add a lot of capital

to invest but our own money or the

company's own money that share price in

2011 was 16 Rand 50 and in four years

that increase tenfold

it was mucking about remember when it

was in the teens for ages the future of

a brace is obviously linked to a virgin

and new look but will this be your

vehicle to indulge yourself in things

that you might think are a good better

no use you seem to like the UK at the

moment yeah I think that was again you

know by pure chance obviously we are

South Africans feel very much at home in

the UK it as a legal systems the same we

speak the language we use the same sort

of telephone system and we drive on the

same side of the road yes so we feel

very much at a limited in that

environment so it's natural for us to

look at opportunities there but that

wasn't what drove it in this instance

bright has a very clear set of criteria

by which it decides whether to make an

investment or not and those two

businesses just happened to tick all the

boxes literally tick them all so it was

a relatively easy decision one more

question and we were it's going to be a

very brief answer if you would the

comment she made to me before we went on

air about negativity or not a negative

person you don't understand negative

people and you say that the media

sometimes projects the negative side and

I said well that's because bad news

travels fast patent in London speaking

about London at London City Airport with

a with a load with a load of cash you

were found innocent in you were paid

interest for what happened there

that's very simple you know you must

turn the clock back to what the world

looked like in those days I mean banks

were going bust we had one of our group

companies had money in one of the most

that I think one of the highest regarded

banks in the world

UBS one day my man phoned me and he said

crystal we've got some money in UBS I'm

going to do something today which I

would have bet my life I will never do

I'm going to withdraw our funds and

place it with other banks I mean that

was picture that yes number one number

two something that I have to say very

carefully and that is that the point I

made to you earlier always look in

context yes you threw out this number of

Forks etc yeah although that money by

sound to most people like a lot of money

in context it's utterly not such a lot

of money that's what your legal case was

we've got a lawyers I said to them

player down man I don't what do you know

make this point that it's not really

money I have this money always had it in

London in a safe deposit box I was

moving some of my activities to

Luxembourg I'd bank accounts then I was

taking the money from London to

Luxembourg after taking advice that it

is perfectly legal you can move any

amount of money in EU countries without

answering any question you are perfectly

legal you can do that and that's what I

was doing I've always wondered I on

earth you got it all into one suitcase

because sir we've run out of time thanks

very much for letting accessibility