Shanduka boss steps down to ‘follow her dream’

2015-02-23 07:58

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After 10 years at the helm of Shanduka – the investment group started by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – chief executive Phuti Mahanyele is stepping down at the end of June to start her own investment company.

This news comes on the back of a merger announced last year between Shanduka and Pembani investments – founded by MTN chairperson Phuthuma Nhleko – after Ramaphosa left business for a life in politics.

Shanduka has stakes in companies such as Liberty, MTN, Shanduka Coal and Coca-Cola Shanduka beverages and is the master franchiser for the McDonald’s fast-food brand.

Media reports speculated that some in the Shanduka management were not happy about the deal, and at one stage it looked as thought the merger would not happen.

But in an interview with City Press, Mahanyele said with or without the merger she was planning to leave Shanduka.

“I have been here [at Shanduka] for 10 years. This is my 11th year, and I’ve always had a dream about starting a business of my own,” she said.

“And I would like to create my own vehicle looking at other things and based on what I’ve learnt from the various industries I’ve had exposure to. [Even without the merger] I would have left anyway. Having been here this long I really was looking for a different opportunity and I have always sought different opportunities.”

Mahanyele was poised to enjoy a successful career in finance and had already accepted a plum job at Standard Bank when Ramaphosa called her up for the Shanduka gig.

“I mean when I came to Shanduka I had already been accepted to join Standard Bank and I decided at the last minute to come here and it turned out to be such a great decision at the time and I’m hoping this decision, which may not make sense to a lot of people now, will prove me well in a few years to come.”

Her new business venture is “definitely going to be in the investment arena, but I don’t want to go too much into it because I am starting it with other people and those people are still employed”.

“But when I leave Shanduka, we’ll be ready to come out and say what it is we are doing,” she said.

To ensure continuity and a smooth transition, she has been requested by the board to stay on as a consultant to the group until the end of December 2015.

Mahanyele said the merger between Shanduka and Pembani – which holds a stake in companies such as Engen – is currently before competition authorities for approval but it is a merger she is excited about.

“When you think about it and you look at black-empowered vehicles, we haven’t had a lot of black companies that have been fed on for the long term. And what I like about Shanduka and what is happening in terms of the merger is that it will go on to create an even bigger vehicle and hopefully have a very long life like Anglo did. We need to see black Anglos.”

Kennedy Bungane, who was recently appointed as chief executive of Pembani, would become the chief executive of the bigger Pembani-Shanduka group, subject to the decision by the competition commission.

“Based on what we have submitted, I don’t forsee an issue, but ultimately it’s for the commission to decide.”

Mahanyele would not comment on how Ramaphosa reacted to her decision to leave the company after the two worked side by side for a decade.

“I would really rather not talk about it,” Mahanyele said with a laugh. “Because it may lead to other things.”

Mahanyele is proud of the legacy she will leave behind at Shanduka.

“What I am leaving behind is a legacy of people who know the importance of the role they have played in the company. What was important for me as chief executive was to get the most out of the people I work with. I’ve never understood hiring people and then not getting them to use their potential. So whether it was people who worked for Shanduka or the Shanduka Foundation, they all played a real role in what they had to do and there was real responsibility. And that has definitely been one of the things that has been siginifcant for me at Shanduka.”

She said the transactions that she was most proud of was the 25% equity investment into Shanduka by the Chinese Investment Corporation (CIC).

“It was very siginificant for a company like the CIC to invest in South Africa at the time.”

The transaction with McDonald’s was also a highlight for Mahanyele and she called it a “wonderful learning experience”.

The company’s net asset value has also grown in leaps and bounds. In 2009, Shanduka’s net asset value was R4.7 billion; it grew to R5.9 billion in 2010; and before the restructuring in March 2014 it was R8.1 billion.

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