CORRECTION: Apology for inaccuracies in Gundle Plastics’ article

Former managing director of Gundle Plastics in the 1980s, Dave Douglas, noted some inaccuracies in Magnus Heystek’s article in the Daily Insider last week, and says the company is still in operation, 58 years after its birth. Also, he records that the company did not fail in the mid-eighties and certainly was never liquidated under Clifford Gundle’s ownership.

From BizNews community member Dave Douglas

As I always do, I opened up the article by Magnus Heystek in the Daily Insider, which is repeated in the BizNews Digest yesterday titled “The scourge of sunshine economists” I do enjoy reading what Magnus has to say and invariably am in agreement with his views.

However, the opening paragraph of this particular article contains factually incorrect statements. I should know because I was there at the time. I joined Gundle Plastics in 1978 as Financial Director, became Managing Director in 1981 and left in 1985.

In 1964 or thereabouts, Clifford Gundle had, from scratch, started the company at a time when the plastic industry was in its infancy. By the time of my arrival, in the short period of only 14 years he had very successfully established a major business. Clifford was Chairman of the company until 1984, when he sold it to AECI. As I recall, the sale price was R28 million, not an impressive figure today, but a huge amount in those days. So much so that the sale was reported on the front page of the major newspaper (which I think was The Star). I am sure that you would be able to source that article from your archives.

Mainly because of its location on the busy fork of two major highways, Gundle Plastics was an extremely well known company in Johannesburg. It was also well known as the national market leader in the supply of polyethylene sheeting to the construction, agricultural and mining sectors. In addition it produced sheeting for the lining of major dams (with world first products) and also initiated pallet stretch wrapping in SA. In essence it was a successful, highly innovative and much respected company, of which I was proud to serve.

I recall that AECI were severely criticised by many of its customers for having invested downstream into plastic conversion and in due course they on-sold the company to Anglovaal. This was after my time. Subsequently I believe the company was split into two entities. From the website, I see that Gundle Plastics remains actively in business but with its main factory now located in Linton Jones Street, Germiston.

Therefore Magnus is incorrect in stating:

  • That “Gundle Plastics is no more” – it is still in operation, now 37 years after 1985 and 58 years after its birth  
  • In 1985 Gundle Plastics was owned by AECI and no longer by Clifford Gundle.
  • The company did not fail in the mid-eighties and certainly was never liquidated under Clifford Gundle’s ownership. Quite the contrary, as is attested by the then handsome price which AECI paid for the business. Nor was it liquidated in or about 1985 under the AECI ownership.

I would be most grateful if you would pass this mail on to Magnus Heystek and hope that I can look forward to reading a correction. This email is copied to Bill Golden, the former technical director of Gundle Plastics, who has agreed with these recollections.

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