Who Owns Whom

2014 sees in 20 years of South African democracy, and the 34th edition of Who Owns Whom. An advantage of the printed book is that it provides an historical snapshot of South African business at the moment the pages roll off the press, so as a matter of curiosity I browsed the four editions that marked the end of the last four decades.

The 2010 edition celebrates our glorious year of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. There was a soccer ball in place of the first ‘o’ in the title and I recall having to be so careful not to infringe copyright by using an image which might look like that of the official FIFA soccer ball. 2010 was not long ago, but there have been so many changes: Freeworld Coatings, previously Barloworld Coatings, and Massmart were South African-owned and have since been bought by Kansai Paints (Japan) and Walmart (USA) respectively; while Independent Newspapers has been returned to local ownership by a Sekunjalo-led consortium.

Advertising revenue for Who Owns Whom has never again reached that achieved in the 2000 millennium edition. This edition carries a full page advert for Arthur Andersen and the SAS Institute (remember them?) and features listed companies called Y2KTEC Ltd and Y3K Group Ltd. 2000 was also the year of the great capital exodus with the offshore listings of Anglo American, Old Mutual and South African Breweries, now SABMiller, and the listing of Gary Porritt’s infamous Shawcell Telecommunications. Its failure has to this day left thousands of investors not knowing what happened to their funds. The late Frederick van Zyl Slabbert was on the boards of Adcorp, Caxton, CTP, Investec and Wooltru and Anglo’s Michael King, although down from the heady days in 1990 when he sat on 33 boards, held 16 directorships and was second only to Leslie Boyd with his 18 directorships.

1990 marked the end of the politically dark ‘80s and the beginning of South Africa’s decade of social enlightenment. It was also a period when the South African business environment went through the largest restructuring since the discovery of diamonds. If you spent money in 1990 the chances are you were spending it with Anglo American. Its economic footprint extended to every one of the 28 major business sectors defined by the Who Owns Whom South African sector database, with the exception of Social and personal services, Renting of machinery and equipment and the Manufacture of television, radios, measuring equipment and clocks. This ownership web is re-published in the 2009 edition, which was a tribute to my late father.

Equally diversified were Old Mutual with its controlling stakes in Rand Mines, Barlows and Safmarine, Sanlam with its industrial arm Sankorp and mining holding company Gencor, now BHP Billiton. It is a walk down memory lane looking at the names of some of the great stock-broking firms of the open outcry floor era: Anderson Wilson, Davis Borkhum Hare, Frankel Kruger, Ivor Jones, Martin & Co, Max Pollak & Freemantle, Simpson McKie and Frankels trading as Stockshare Nominees and Martins Sharestock Nominees.

The first edition of Who Owns Whom published in 1980 lists two generations of Oppenheimers on the Anglo board, Harry and Nicky as well as Harry’s cousin Philip, and there was Anton Rupert on the board of Remgro with both his sons, Johann and Anthonij. Listed companies in 1980, the year of Zimbabwean independence, included Rhodesian Cables, Rhodesian Cement and Rhodesian Corporation. Little did they know what was coming their way!

During my browsing session I noticed an A. McGregor listed as a director of Barclays and Towles Edgar Jacobs. He is no known relative but I am using my Who Owns Whom collection to carry on digging…

Congratulations to those Who Owns Whom subscribers who have accumulated one of the few full sets of printed editions. 2014 will be the first year the e-book will outsell the hard copy, a trend we expect to continue, but on my watch the printed version will always be published.

• McGregor is MD of Who Owns Whom

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