Allan Gray emerges from shadows into the wealthiest list

The latest list of African dollar billionaires, published by the Ventures magazine, has dug up investment guru Allan Gray from a well maintained obscurity and positioned him as the second wealthiest person on the African continent and number one in South Africa.

Described as media shy, Gray has not featured in previous wealth lists which have been dominated by names like Patrice Motsepe, Nicky Oppenheimer, Johan Rupert, Christo Wiese etc.

Featuring Nigerian industrial mogul Aliko Dangote at the top with an asset base of $20.2 billion, the Venture’s list exposes many other interesting themes when closely scrutinised.

Ventures’ commentary notes that Africa has about 55 dollar billionaires with a combined fortune of $143.88 billion. The average net worth of these individuals is $2.6 billion. The median age is 65 years. “The youngest billionaires are Mohammed Dewji of Tanzania and Igho Sanomi, a Nigerian oil trader. They are both 38 years old”.

“Three women made it into the rankings. The richest of them is Folorunsho Alakija, a Nigerian fashion designer and oil tycoon worth some $7.3 billion… Isabel Dos Santos, an Angolan investor and the daughter of Angolan President, Eduardo Dos Santos, together with Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the widow of Kenya’s first President, also made the cut”.

The Ventures list does expose global inequality if seen against global wealth lists. For example while Africa is aid to have about 55 dollar billionaires which is equal to a number of dollar billionaires in New York.

South Africa has four representatives in the list of top ten dollar billionaires in Africa and none of them are black and all of them boast legacies that stretch for no less than 30 years. The four South Africans are drawn from different sectors of the economy, mining, retail, investments and luxury goods making it difficult to generalise about wealth creation trends. It is worth noting though that the continental wide list has bias towards commodities.

The South Africans are Allan Gray who is positioned in the second place with wealth estimated at $8.5 billion (about R85bn), Nicky Oppenheimer (5th), Johan Rupert (6th) and Christo Wiese (10th).

Gray is interesting in emerging from some obscurity and reflecting the role of asset management in the South African economy. Gray is the founder of South Africa’s largest private asset management company named after him, Allan Gray. The firm will be known to many for its market outperformance over the years.

A summary of Gray’s profile published by the Ventures magazine state that “This media-shy South African moneyman controls two investment companies that collectively manage over $50 billion in assets”.

After Gray received an MBA from Harvard, he worked for eight years at Fidelity Management and Research in Boston before returning to Cape Town in 1973, when he founded Allan Gray…”

On the fifth position, Nicky Oppenheimer will be known to many as representing a generational control over diamond giant De Beer. The son of Ernest Oppenheimer, Nicky Oppenheimer is estimated to be valued around $6.5 billion. This after the Oppenheimer family relinquished control over De Beers to Anglo American in 2011 and made a deeper venture into private equity.

With wealth estimated at $6.1 billion Johann Rupert chairs the Swiss-based luxury goods company, Compagnie Financière Richemont. It houses brands like Cartier, Dunhill, IWC Schaffhausen, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin. Johan Rupert inherited position from a successful family venture started by his father Anton Rupert in the 1940’s. The business started as a small cigarette manufacturing entity and diversified into luxury goods.

On the tenth spot is Christo Wiese with wealth estimated at $3.4 billion and largely known for building one of the largest retailers in the continent Shoprite. He started out earnest on his own in the 1970’s.

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