The rich boys’ toys: How they spend their billions

Biénne Huisman
2018-08-01 10:15
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 GT Ferreira’s Tokara is perched on the Simonsberg side of the Banghoek Valley outside Franschhoek.

What do you buy when the sky is the limit, when your pockets are bottomless, or at least a few billions deep?

South Africa’s megawealthy appear to have a penchant for sports teams, wine estates, fast horses and slow towns. Top-dollar splurges include private game reserves and public concerts headlining superstar Beyoncé.

Disgraced former Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste – number 115 on the City Press wealth index with an estimated R297 million at the time of calculations – is believed to be hiding at his sea-facing mansion in Voëlklip, in Hermanus. Meanwhile his home town of Stellenbosch, where many investors and former friends lost millions in the Steinhoff saga, is bristling with gossip.

In the historic Jonkershoek valley on the town’s outskirts, Jooste’s estate on the farm Jonkersdrift is lying idle. Jooste and his former business partners Frikkie Nel and Danie van der Merwe bought the farm for R31 million in 2003. New homes were built for Jooste and Nel, while Van der Merwe inherited the original gabled building flanked by vineyards.

On the farm, Jooste’s four-bedroom house in the shadow of the Stellenbosch mountain is fitted with an indoor pool, a sauna and a Jacuzzi, with an outside cottage and horse paddocks where pregnant mares from his Bonnievale stud were brought to foal. Some of his most deserving racehorses were put to pasture there. Jooste’s thoroughbred gelding The Conglomerate won the Durban July in 2016.

Next door in the Jonkershoek valley, the five-star heritage Lanzerac Hotel is being pulled into the fracas. Reopened last month following fire damage in 2017, the hotel – “the Grand dame of Stellenbosch” – was given an extensive overhaul by ex-Steinhoff designer, Con van der Colff.

A short distance away, retail tycoon and Steinhoff’s former chairman, Christo Wiese, sold Lanzerac in 2012 to a “mystery buyer”.

This week, Steinhoff spokesperson Reina de Waal told City Press Steinhoff has no ties to Lanzerac, saying she cannot speak for “Jooste’s involvement”. She confirmed that Van der Colff worked for Steinhoff until 2015.

Wiese claims second place on the wealth index with R32 billion. This was before his net worth plunged when Steinhoff, in which he was the largest investor, reported accounting irregularities late last year. In April, Wiese confirmed he was selling two of his family’s private planes, a Dassault Falcon 900C and a Boeing Business Jet.

“I am awaiting offers and will then decide whether or not I will let it go,” he said. “I want to buy another plane and I don’t need two.”

His son, Jacob Wiese, was placed at number 90 with a fortune of R440 million. The family’s assets include the Somerset West wine estate Lourensford, a music concert venue with an organic food market.

Patrice Motsepe, in third place on the list, was hailed a national hero after announcing he would host Beyoncé and Jay-Z in South Africa at a free concert in December. This follows him jetting Spanish soccer giants Barcelona FC to South Africa for a clash against his club, Mamelodi Sundowns, in May. Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo reported he paid just under R45 million to import the team, including superstar Lionel Messi, saying this price excluded the cost of their chartered plane.

Also ploughing back into their roots are luxury goods titan Johann Rupert, number eight on the index with R13 billion, and banking boss Gerrit Thomas (GT) Ferreira, at number 16 with R4.8 billion.

GT Ferreira’s Tokara is perched on the Simonsberg side of the Banghoek Valley outside Franschhoek.

Both men own wine farms outside Franschhoek. Rupert has L’Ormarins and Ferreira has Tokara. They also have retreats in the Eastern Cape Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet, where Rupert’s late father, Anton, grew up, as did Ferreira.

Rupert now keeps a sprawling horse farm on the town’s outskirts and Ferreira a nature conservancy. In Graaff-Reinet, talk is that between them, the two businessmen maintain the town’s small airstrip so they can fly in.

At number six with an estimated fortune of R14 billion, pharmaceuticals boss Stephen Saad, from Durban, likes to escape to his private game lodge in Sabi Sands, next to the Kruger National Park. Saad owns andBeyond Kirkman’s Kamp, a boutique safari lodge in the reserve where guests are invited to “slip into the leisurely pace of yesteryear” at R10 075 per person per night.

Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp, owned by pharmaceutical boss Stephen Saad.

Topping the list is Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of Glencore, with R71.7 billion. Glasenberg lives in the Swiss village of Rüschlikon overlooking Lake Zurich, where he dropped 360 million Swiss francs (now about R4.6 billion) into the village’s coffers in 2011, affording residents a 7% tax break, reported The Guardian. Some villagers argued against the windfall, suggesting it was “tainted money”.

“While Glasenberg, who lives in a glass and steel chalet up a steep hill with views over the lake, is on first-name terms with presidents and prime ministers, few people in Rüschlikon had heard of him until his taxes reached the village coffers. The huge payment caused an immediate stir, with the mayor advised to call the village’s bank to make sure it was prepared to receive such a large payment,” wrote The Guardian.

Glasenberg’s former business associate was controversial trading star Marc Rich, best known for being pardoned by Bill Clinton following US charges that Rich sold oil to Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis.

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