Cries of executive excess and how the rich waste money are bound to echo everywhere.
This time last year, former union boss Cyril Ramaphosa was at the receiving end of such outbursts when he bid R18m for a buffalo bull – and he did not even buy it. He apologised publicly for what he described as a lapse of judgement when he tried to buy such an expensive animal while poverty abounds in SA.
But there is a big difference between Rupert, a respected businessman, and other (quasi-political) businesspeople.
Rupert’s father, Dr Anton Rupert, started Rembrandt from nothing and with nothing, and Johann turned the multimillion rand business into a multibillion euro business during the last two decades.
The first step was when he and his friends at Rand Merchant Bank masterminded the unbundling of Richemont from Rembrandt in 1988, a step which laid the foundation of what Richemont was about to become.
Under Rupert’s leadership, Richemont has grown into the world’s second-largest luxury goods group. Some of the group’s underlying brands have been around for a few centuries.
We can argue that if Rupert sells exclusive and expensive trinkets to the super rich, he can use the profits to buy a few nice trinkets for himself. But the story of the buffalo bull is not one of flaunting wealth.
Rupert told Fin24 that he is only one of a group of investors and game breeders who bought the bull, indeed for the massive amount of R40m. He did not say how much he contributed. And this time, it was not two stubborn bulls with fat wallets going head to head at an auction.
“It is a very special bull, arguably the best bull in SA. Lots of breeders tried to buy it,” says Rupert.
He predicts that the bull will pay for itself within a few years as the consortium starts to sell its offspring. Thereafter, if the breeding programme is a big success, the monetary value of such a great buffalo might start to drop as numbers increase, which is the main aim of the purchase.
“This might not be a good investment,” he concludes.
The bull will move to its new home in the Eastern Cape soon, reversing a trend that has seen the best game being bought by game farms in the Northern Province.
Note: Thabo Tholo was established by Tilman Ludin, a close friend of Johann Rupert. This special game farm comprises some 35 000 hectares and aims to breed superior animals to replace the magnificent creatures that were shot by trophy hunters since man brought gunpowder to southern Africa.
*After chasing money on the JSE for 15 years, Adriaan Kruger is now living a relaxed lifestyle in Wilderness and lectures economics part-time at NMMU.