Johannesburg - The disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste did not only have business secrets. For years, the chattering elites of Stellenbosch and Hermanus have been whispering about the dark side of the “family man” with the golden smile.
The “other woman”, too, is a golden girl. Her sun-kissed, blonde-cropped hair is turned toward the sun in all her Facebook pictures.
She has the perfect setting for her bikini-clad, seemingly perfect life: a luxury apartment in Bantry Bay with a glass-walled pool right next to the ocean; a yacht sailing joyfully along in the Mediterranean on one of her polo holidays in Monaco.
Berdine Odendaal, 34, seems to spend her days on a horse, smoking and reading books between the high life of the pristine Val de Vie Polo estate near Paarl, where she owns several properties, and a luxury apartment in Bantry Bay.
He too leads a charmed life. In all his pictures his hair is just right. His smile, while holding countless horse racing trophies, is crystal clear. He was a “boytjie” with no airs and graces.
An astonishing thing to say about a man who one year ago was listed as having a net worth of $400m (R5.8bn) and who has lost countless South Africans millions of rands.
The golden girl and the trophy man would, on paper, make a perfect couple.
Except Markus Jooste, 56, is the “perfect” married family man. And the golden girl is not his wife.
“Everybody talked about the girlfriend who he flew around in choppers,” said a source in their social circle.
She allegedly lives in the Bantry Bay apartment, which is linked to Jooste. According to records at the deeds office, Odendaal and Jooste also share the same post office box in Pretoria: PO Box 17328, Groenkloof, Pretoria. Jooste, his wife Ingrid and Odendaal also list the same PO Box in Somerset-West: PO Box 902, Somerset Mall.
A charmed life
Odendaal is a fixture in polo circles and has competed in Argentina, while also attending social events linked to the sport in the rich man’s playground of St Tropez, France. Old Khaki, the clothing brand, described Odendaal as “the epitome of urban cool” during the Mercedes-Benz fashion week in March this year.
Jooste is a big player on the local horse racing scene. He has said that he owns between 200 and 250 racehorses and has a stake in a stud farm called Klawervlei near Bonnievale in the Western Cape.
Odendaal was contacted by Media24 about the nature of her relationship with Jooste, a married father of three, but declined to provide details. She twice replied, “no comment”, when asked about Jooste and the property in Bantry Bay. Jooste was also contacted by phone and WhatsApp, but did not respond.
A Steinhoff spokesperson said: “Markus Jooste is no longer an employee of Steinhoff and, in any case, we cannot comment on speculation about his private life.”
Jooste appeared to have a spotless reputation. As the CEO of Steinhoff, an international multibillion-rand furniture company, countless shareholders and pension funds trusted him – to their detriment.
Jooste wasn’t just a CEO. Before he resigned from Steinhoff International last week on Wednesday, seeing R194bn of value from the company wiped out, he was the face of the conglomerate.
When pension funds invested their money into Steinhoff, it wasn’t just the business part of the company they were investing in. They were, in part, investing in Jooste.
He served as the company’s CEO since 1988 and had overseen an expansion that turned Steinhoff into Europe’s second largest homeware retailer.
When life was good, it was very good for him. Jooste made the country’s Top 20 best paid executives in South Africa list. He was listed at number 18 with earnings of R38.4m in 2015.
It appeared that - just like in his business world, where on one hand he was a successful CEO of an enormously successful conglomerate company, while allegedly secretly being “creative” with the auditing - his private life also held some big secrets.
Links between Jooste and Odendaal
Odendaal, who has 10 properties registered in her name at Val de Vie, allegedly calls Bantry Bay home. Images of her enjoying the sunsets and swimming in a pool in the exclusive Cape Town suburb appears on her Facebook page.
Stefan Potgieter, Jooste’s son-in-law who manages his affairs through a company called Mayfair Speculators, confirmed that Jooste has “an arrangement” with a friend of his who owns an apartment in Bantry Bay.
“I don’t know who lives in the apartment. I merely manage the property on behalf of Coy’s Properties, that is owned by Malcolm King, a friend of Jooste,” Potgieter said.
Coy’s Properties owns an apartment in Bantry Bay bought for R21.5m in 2012. It has the same address Odendaal has listed as her residential address.
Potgieter explained that he had “never met Odendaal” and that he knew nothing about her.
“I only make sure that the asset (the apartment) is taken care of and that Coy’s Properties, on behalf of King, receives rental income. The arrangements around the apartment is Jooste’s private business.”
Potgieter and King also sit on the board of Lanzerac Investments. Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch used to be part of Christo Wiese’s portfolio. Wiese is a close friend of Jooste and is currently Steinhoff’s executive chairperson.
Aside from horses and planes, Jooste appears to have poured most of his wealth into property.
Under his name, he owns two properties. One is a 92 432 square metre stand in the Val De Vie estate, which was bought in 2016 for R10.5m.
Val de Vie is an estate just outside Paarl and is described on their website as being in a valley dappled with vineyards, fruit trees and olive groves, with the Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountains as a backdrop.
“It’s favoured by many high-profile individuals and some of society’s elite, who choose to escape the bustle of the city, while remaining close enough for a daily commute into Cape Town.”
According to deed searches, the land was bonded twice for R46m and, then again, for R65m. Google Maps shows that it is a large piece of land that has not yet been developed.
Jooste has a number of properties under a Hermanus company name, with 25 of them that are listed in Cape Town, Calitzdorp, Hermanus and Jamestown worth more than R40m.
His wife, Ingrid, on the other hand, only appears to own one townhouse in Stellenbosch, which was bought in May this year for R2.7m.
Little is publicly known about Ingrid, other than her co-ownership with Jooste on race horses.
In an interview on the Sporting Post a few years ago, Jooste was asked if his wife had become interested in horse racing through him, or if she was always into it. He replied: “Ingrid was not really interested, but she now goes to see our horses run.”
Stellenbosch 'knew about Odendaal'
According to impeccable sources, the Stellenbosch set knew about Jooste’s affair.
Odendaal wasn’t exactly hiding her lifestyle.
In photos on the internet, she is seen in polo gear, described as having an “effortless look”, on her way to the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and is listed as being the owner of an architectural drawing of an enormous property on an architect’s website.
Those who know Odendaal saw her drive a customised silver Bentley and white Ferrari and they spoke about her two Argentinian polo ponies. She also has 11 properties listed under her name.
Ten of them are situated in the same Val De Vie estate where Jooste owns land. Each property was bought for an average price of R3.3m. She does not appear to work.
Jooste 'not a due diligence guy'
In one of the few in-depth interviews Jooste ever did, he told Alec Hogg in an article that appeared in BizNews last year, that he had come a long way from his early years as a deeply indebted chartered accounting graduate.
“His stellar career began when appointed financial director of a publicly listed company in is 20s, and progressed as he soaked up lessons from master German entrepreneur Claas Daun,” BizNews wrote.
He was 27 when he became the financial director of GommaGomma, where his path crossed with Daun, and he invested in them.
“I just think you’ve got to have a lot of passion and drive. In a way, I was very lucky that I was very hungry. I came out of university with R100 000 of study debt – but with a chartered accountant qualification. After that, the money part of it got lost a long time ago for me. It’s the excitement, the people. To be in a business where ten of the other execs are your best friends that is unique,” Jooste said.
Jooste said in the interview that he was not a “due diligence guy”.
“If you have to count the stock, read through the leases, check the title deeds – you should never have considered the deal in the first place. The critical part is the human due diligence and that’s what I spend 90% of my time on.”
Jooste also said that there were “more than 100 guys all over the world with all their wealth in Steinhoff”.
He was at the top of his game for years and it appears that he didn’t hold back on the jet-set lifestyle.
The most public part of his life was his passion for horse racing, which he inherited from his father who worked in a post office. He was a leading racing horse owner who spread his wings overseas, taking part in racing in Australia, Europe, England and Ireland.
In May this year, it was reported in Britain’s The Sun newspaper that Jooste had bought a hill to watch his horse Douglas Macarthur run in the Epsom Derby.
The story said that, instead of buying a ticket to watch the race, he bought a hill.
The famous Epsom Hill area of the course was rebranded Poundland Hill after Investec struck a deal with Steinhoff International, which owns the high street retailer.
His racehorse, The Conglomerate, which he bought for R1.6m in Australia, won last year’s Durban July.
Jooste is listed as an active director of 16 companies and, according to sources, he recently bought a $22m Gulfstream G550 jet. Interestingly, the plane last flew on December 3 from Frankfurt, Germany, where Steinhoff’s offices are situated, to Cape Town.
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