Steel baron Eric Samson dies

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SAJBD conference, 2011. Photo courtesy SAJBD.
SAJBD conference, 2011. Photo courtesy SAJBD.
SAJBD conference, 2011. Photo courtesy SAJBD.

Steel magnate Eric Samson, best known for building Macsteel into one of South Africa's largest companies, has died aged 83.  

The octogenarian billionaire – who shied away from the spotlight throughout his life – died in Newport, California. He had a career spanning more than five decades in the steel industry and made his fortune, which was valued at some $1.1 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in 2015 and over $1 billion by Wealth-X in 2018, primarily through steel and real estate assets.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies described him in a statement as a "visionary leader and man of unsurpassed generosity", saying his legacy would benefit the country long into the future.

The statement added that he was "a South African giant", saying "the magnitude of [his] achievements was surpassed only by the greatness of his heart." 

Samson began his career in his father's business, Pan Africa Staalhandel, after finishing high school, later becoming managing director of the business after a merger with S Machanick & Co. He founded Machanick Steel & Fencing after buying land in an industrial area in Johannesburg, in a spot that would later be Macsteel's headquarters. By 1974, he bought out his partners to become the company's sole owner.

Samson is survived by his wife, Shiela, their three children, as well as their 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  

* Compiled by Marelise van der Merwe. This article was updated at 19:09 on Tuesday 19 January to include the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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