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EDINBURGH — Ben la Grange is one of the best paid retail bosses in South Africa. The Chartered Accountant was paid R50m in 2017 for serving as Chief Executive Officer of Steinhoff Africa Retail (Star). To put that figure into perspective, Mr Price CEO Stuart Bird reportedly earned just over R15m last year, Pick n Pay’s Richard Brasher took home about R25m and Shoprite boss Pieter Engelbrecht received a salary of R32m. In December, La Grange stepped down from the Star role to concentrate on his other day job: chief financial officer of parent group Steinhoff. Now, he has moved away from that position, too – apparently to concentrate on efforts to rescue the company he should have been watching over in the first place. The Twittersphere is abuzz with questions about why Steinhoff is playing musical chairs and clinging to a man who should be answering tough questions about allegations of fraud instead of papering over the cracks. – Jackie Cameron
By Vernon Wessels
(Bloomberg) — Steinhoff International Holdings NV, the South Africa-based retail giant consumed by an accounting scandal, said some of its business units need “significant near-term liquidity” as its chief financial officer stepped down to focus on rescue efforts.
The CFO Ben La Grange is still gainfully employed, he is the man to answer for this fraud
— Net Neutrality ⚙️ (@TumiTGP) December 27, 2017
CFO Ben la Grange will be replaced by Philip Dieperink, finance chief for the company’s U.K. subsidiary, the owner of France’s Conforama and Mattress Firm in the U.S. said Thursday. La Grange will also work on completing the 2017 financial statements, while Steinhoff said it is seeking a chief restructuring officer to help rearrange its debt.
The company remains “committed to work with its lenders and other finance providers in finding solutions and to return liquidity to the group in order to stabilize the affected underlying operations,” Steinhoff said in a statement. It said it has “achieved some degree of stabilization in its operating businesses.”
The company’s Pepkor Europe unit has received a 180 million-pound ($244 million) loan facility to replace planned investment from Steinhoff, according to a statement from Pepkor’s Poundland unit in the U.K.
@Magda_Wierzycka Ben la Grange Baffles me. What is the ultimate job of a CFO? Is his story plausible ?
— Jeanrich (@Jeanrich1986) January 4, 2018
Steinhoff shares lost most of their value in the days following the Dec. 5 announcement of an investigation into its finances and the resignation of its chief executive officer. The stock rose 25 percent in Frankfurt on Thursday, extending a six-day rally.
The retailer said on Tuesday that its 2017 results will be accompanied by a restatement of its 2016 financial statements as well as the 2015 earnings of Steinhoff International Holdings Pty Ltd., the former Johannesburg-listed entity for the group. Steinhoff moved its primary stock listing to Frankfurt in 2015. The restatements won’t affect its Steinhoff Services Ltd. business, which has bonds listed in Johannesburg.
Moody’s Investor Services last week downgraded the company’s credit by three notches, its second multi-step cut since the scandal and taking the Steinhoff deeper into junk. The ratings provider kept Steinhoff on review for further downgrades, saying the company may face challenges in being able to repay or refinance debt maturing this year.
Bloomberg profile: Ben la Grange
Mr. Andries Benjamin la Grange, also known as Ben, BComm (Law), BComm(Hons), CA served as the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Steinhoff Africa Retail Limited since July 1, 2017 until December 1, 2017.
Mr. la Grange joined Steinhoff in 2003 as Manager of the Corporate Tax Division. He served as the Group Chief Financial Officer of Steinhoff International Holdings N.V. since March 5, 2013 and also served as its Chief Financial Officer of Southern Hemisphere.
Steinhoff Executives playing musical chairs. Now Ben la Grange steps down as CEO.
— Douglas Mjekula (@DouglasMjekula) January 4, 2018