Starting again at 54? Super entrepreneur Natie Kirsh, now worth R91bn, proves it’s possible.

By Alec Hogg

Every year London’s Sunday Times publishes a list of the UK’s 1 000 richest residents. For 2015, the past weekend’s ranking show, position 17 is occupied by Natie Kirsh. With net assets of R91bn, were he so inclined, he has enough to buy all the issued shares of either Woolworths or Discovery. But in 1986 he left the country with virtually nothing.

The story of the 83-year-old Potchefstroom-bred, Wits-educated entrepreneur is inspirational. Kirsh’s group Tradegro – owner of previously flourishing chain stores Checkers, Metro, Dions, Russells and JD Group – was one of the highest profile casualties of national capital starvation which followed PW Botha’s infamous Rubicon Speech in 1985. Sanlam, then his financial partner, squeezed the over-geared Kirsh out of the business. So 29 years ago he took what he could get for his life’s work and headed for New York to run the small Jetro operation there which he’d bought from Metro.

Today Jetro is the US’s leading wholesale cash and carry group with 13 massive warehouses catering to the food services and grocery sector. Kirsh owns 75% of Jetro, a stake which the London Sunday Times estimates at £3.7bn of his £5bn net worth. That makes him richer than the Ruperts, the Oppenheimers and Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg. Of all his countrymen, only Elon Musk (net worth R150bn) tops Kirsh. Not bad for a guy who started again at 54.


Yesterday’s top five stories

Lucy Kellaway: Billionaires like Elon Musk are “freaks and misfits”
“We need to get it to a turtle doctor” – little girls save baby turtle
Natie Kirsh of Jetro, worth R91bn, top of 8 SAs on UK’s 2015 Rich List
Mt Everest avalanche: At least ten South Africans trapped
Update: Presidency and Glencore dispel claims of Eskom BEE benefits


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