Globally, there are entrepreneurs making waves and changing the narratives of how business is done. At entrepreneurs.ng, we flash our torch on these great individuals who have made a huge difference in their respective economies. Today, we are looking at the life of Christoffel Wiese, a fearless South African businessman, who achieved his wealth through consumer retail. Ensure you read till the end and learn from his journey.
Early Life Of Christoffel Wiese
Christoffel was born on 10th September, 1941 in Upington, South Africa. Growing up, he attended Paarl Boy’s High School in the Western Cape region of South Africa. Following that, he proceeded to Stellenbosch University where he obtained his BA and LLB degrees.
Christo is married to Caro Wiese and they have three children together. One of the children is Jacob Daniel Wiese, a lawyer, and renowned businessman. Another is Clare Wiese-Wentzel, a lifestyle blogger, TV Presenter, and a Writer. Wiese lives in Cape Town.
His Life As A Lawyer
The successful businessman didn’t start out as an entrepreneur. As a graduate of Law, Christoffel practised law at the Cape Bar for some years after obtaining his university degree.
Christoffer Wiese Journey To Pepkor
After Christo practised as a lawyer, he worked as a Director at Pepkor, a discount clothing chain founded by his parent in 1965. Pepkor is a South African based investment and holding company with business interest in Africa, United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and New Zealand.
He was the executive director from 1967-1973. Actually, Pepkor was formerly known as PEP Stores before it was changed to Pepkor Limited in 1982. PEP Stores, however, became its subsidiary. In 1981, Christoffel became the company’s chairman, owns a 44% share of the company.
As Chairman of the company, Wiese took some giant business steps. He acquired Ackermans, a clothing chain in 1986. Following that, he listed the company on Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) as PEP Limited. Then in 1991, the company acquired the retail chains, Smart Group Holdings, Cashbuild, Checkers and Stuttafords.
That same year, Wiese led the company to open its first retail outlet in Scotland. Pepkor became a successful retail investment with stores in 10 countries in Africa as well as operations in Australia and Poland.
Acquisiton Of Shoprite
Needless to say, Shoprite is a household name known by the young and old in Africa. Interestingly, Christoffel Wiese is the brain behind this Africa’s most storied retail chain.
Under Christoffel’s leadership at Pepkor, Shoprite (a small chain of retail outlets spread across South Africa) was acquired for 1milion rand (equivalent to $122,000 USD). He also listed the outlet on JSE as Shoprite Holdings Ltd.
In addition, he was able to grow the outlet from eight supermarkets in Cape Town to a multibillion-dollar business spread across Africa due to its various acquisitions made in the first 30 years of operations. More so, Christoffel played a key role in helping Shoprite acquire distributor Senta.
Later, he expanded the business through franchising. In 2011, Shoprite Stores was named the sixth overall favourite brand, and a third most valued brand in term of community upliftment in South Africa.
Between March 2011 and March 2012, Shoprite’s shares rose by 50% on the South Africa stock market. Wiese made $1.5billion profit as a result.
Other Business Interests Of Christoffel Wiese
Apart from the aforementioned acquisitions, Wiese also purchased OK Bazaars from South African Breweries for one Rand in 1997. Wiese added 157 supermarkets and 146 furnitures stores to the company. In addition to that, Christoffel owns more than 1,200 corporate outlets under different names. He owns various properties including a private game reserve in the Kalahari Desert and the Lourensford Estate.
In April 2015, news has it that Virgin Group and its private equity backers sold out Virgin Active to Brait (a company owned by Wiese). Also, Christoffel was the former Chairman and largest shareholder of Steinhoff International. In 2014, Pepkor was sold to Steinhoff and Wiese became the Chairman of Steinhoff. However, he resigned in 2017 following the Steinhoff accounting scandal.
Lanzerac Manor & Winery
In 1991, Wiese bought a South African farm. He changed the outlook and converted it into a five-star hotel, called Lanzerac Manor & Winery with
48 rooms. Subsequently, he sold the hotel to a foreign investment firm on 7th March 2012.
Christoffel Wiese Net Worth
According to Forbes, in 2016, Christoffel Wiese was worth $6.23bilion. In September 2017, he was worth $5.1billion. As of December 2017, he was worth $742million. And in November 2018, his estimated net worth was around US$1.1billion.
Awards And Recognitions
- Formerly listed as the 69th most successful person in South African history
- Made Forbes list of 1210 billionaires with an estimated net worth of US$1,6bn
- 11th most successful business man in accounting, banking, finance, consumer goods, fashion and retails
- Business Leader of the Year, The Cape Town Sakekamer
- Prestigious Pioneer of the 20th century Award, South Africand Council of Shopping Centres
Christoffer Wiese Quotes
“I have no idea whether I’m the third richest person in Africa. People who know how much they’re worth aren’t worth a hell of a lot!”
“I was never cut out to be a number two.”
“We bought Shoprite for R1 million. Today, it’s worth R100 billion.”
“My mother taught me to only worry about things you can do something about.”
“Pep started as one shop in Upington, then grew shop by shop by shop.”
“I’m extremely positive about investment in Africa because Africa has a wonderful climate, wonderful people, and amazing possibilities.”
“Africa has been called dark and hopeless, but today it is neither of these. Africa is awakening. It’s a huge market of almost a billion people with huge
resources and a young population. It’s the best place to invest.”
“I still enjoy what I’m doing, which is building businesses. I don’t have any particular passion apart from my business and my family, and that gives me all the pleasure that I want.”
“Money is always the least of the problems. It is finding the right business or growing the right business. You can’t do that without the right people.”
Entrepreneurial Lessons From Christoffel Wiese
Pep started as one shop in Upington before becoming a multi-million dollar company. Many aspiring entrepreneurs want to start big and the major challenge they complain about is a lack of huge capital.
On the contrary, it is better to start small in business so as to test the waters. Business is risky and if peradventure the business doesn’t work out as expected, you will not lose so much money and your loss will be minimal.
Follow Your Passion
Christoffel knew he had passion for nothing else than business and he pursued his passion quite early. The beauty of investing in your passion is that you will be able to record tremendous success in that area. This is evident in Christoffel’s business success.
Whatever you have passion for, you will create time for it. Not everybody can be an entrepreneur because everyone is not wired to be one. Therefore, if you have a passion for entrepreneurship, it is better to venture into it straight on because business demands a good dose of passion.
See Problems As Opportunities
When Wiese went to Zambia in the 1990s to open up a clothing store, he found out that clothing was sold on the street pavement by hawkers. There were no clothes shop in the country. A Pep Store colleague that went with him told him, “You know, we can’t come and open shops here because people prefer to buy their clothes from hawkers.”
But, Wiese went ahead to open the store and it became successful just like other previous stores across the continent. Business is all about solving problems. So, wherever there’s a problem, a business owner sees an opportunity out of it.
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