Liberty Life founder, Sir Donald Gordon, has died

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Entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of financial services group Liberty Life, Sir Donald Gordon, has died aged 89.

The board of Liberty Holdings confirmed Gordon's passing in a statement issued to Fin24 on Friday.

"We are saddened by the passing of Sir Donald Gordon on 21 November 2019. We extend our condolences to his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time," the statement read.

Gordon has been described by the Liberty board as a "visionary leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist" who made an "immense" contribution to the industry and the country.

"In 1957 he founded Liberty on principles born of a deep belief in humanity and the desire to help people to leave a legacy for their families. Liberty will continue to honour his vision by pursuing our purpose of improving people's lives by making their financial freedom possible," the board said.

Gordon was born in Johannesburg in 1930 and matriculated at King Edward VII (KES) in 1947. He was a qualified chartered accountant, having studied at Wits University and worked at Kessel Feinstein, now known as Grant Thornton, according to a Finweek report.

He founded the Liberty Life Association in 1957, which eventually listed on the JSE in 1967, the first South African company to do so, Finweek reported.

In recognition of his contribution to SA business, and a "significant endowment" to the University of Pretoria, it  named its business school founded in 2000 after him - The Gordon Institute of Business Science.

Gordon also made a "generous" donation to Wits University, which was used to acquire the Kenridge Hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg. The Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre was established in 2002.

Gordon was knighted in 2005, for his contributions to the arts and business. He had contributed £20m to the Royal Opera House and the renamed Donald Gordon Opera Theatre in Cardiff. 

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) also issued a statement on Gordon's passing.

"For his phenomenal achievements in both the business and philanthropic fields, Donald Gordon was truly a living legend.

"As a business leader who founded the global insurance giant Liberty International, he was far-sighted, bold and innovative; as a philanthropist, his unstintingly generosity led to the establishment of a range of outstanding institutions and foundations that have benefited countless people and numerous worthy causes the world over," the statement read.

"Donald Gordon has left a magnificent legacy that will live on long after his passing."

Compiled by Lameez Omarjee

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