Who Owns Whom
According the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa there is no set rule, but the guideline is that one person ought not to hold more than five posts as non-executive director. Research by Henley Business School at the University of Reading in the UK suggests that the maximum should be no more than four.

Casting back to the 1990 edition of Who Owns Whom the following directors held 25 or more directorships at the time.

Director name No. of Directorships Group
H P De Villiers 34 Rembrandt
M W King 32 Anglo American
J G Pretorius 30 Federale Beleggings
D O Cohen 25 Form Scaff Industries
R A Steyn 25 Sanlam
                                                                                                  [Source: Who Owns Whom 1990 edition]
 A current tally of individuals on JSE-listed boards where the director type is executive, non-executive, lead independent non-executive and independent non-executive extracted from WOWEB and illustrated in the table below indicates that this call has been heeded:
No. of directorships Count of Directors
6 4
5 14
4 34
3 87
2 263
1 1,990
Total 2,392
   [Source: WOWEB]
However, if one includes the private company directors from the same file, using the same categories, there are a total of 535 directors who are not being guided by these recommendations:
No. of Directorships Count of Directors
26 – 30 8
21 – 25 9
16 – 20 17
11 – 15 80
6 – 10 421
1 – 5 26,759
Total 27,294

[Source: WOWEB]

A recently launched WOW solution called Linkages overlays a series of algorithms over five datasets from Woweb: companies, their directors, shareholders, advisors, and industries, highlighting multiple influences and potential conflicts of interest and a situation with potential negative, unintended consequences.

The table below shows the number of individuals holding three or more directorships in the same industry segment:

WOW Segment Number of Individuals
Agriculture 26
Automotive & Parts 50
Aviation 5
Business Support Services 115
Chemicals & Fertilisers 48
Communication, Media & Technology (CMT) 225
Community and Personal services 25
Construction 196
Education 6
Energy & Water 71
Financial Institutions 1031
Fisheries & Aquaculture 8
Food & Beverage 208
Forestry & Wood 3
Healthcare 96
Hospitality, Gaming & Entertainment 90
Manufacturing 136
Marine 1
Mining 187
Public Enterprises 3
Real Estate 172
Retail & Wholesale 173
Transportation 134
Sanitation & Waste Management 4
Textiles, Clothing and Footwear 34
  [Source: WOW Linkages]
There are many instances of these multiple directorships due to companies being associated by equity holdings or supply chains. But where companies are not associated, there may be a threat to the protection of intellectual property and specialists’ processes.
It is now an accepted theme that the sustainability of capitalism is ultimately dependent on corporate social responsibility and good governance. I quote from Christine Lagarde, former IMF head: “Ultimately, we need more individual accountability. Good corporate governance is forged by the ethics of its individuals moving beyond corporate “rules-based” behaviour to “values-based” behaviour.”
Stay safe and hopeful.
Andrew McGregor

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