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JOHANNESBURG — Mark Lamberti surprised the market this morning when Imperial Holdings Limited issued a Sens announcing his resignation as CEO. The resignation comes in the wake of the Adila Chowan court judgment. Lamberti also recently resigned from the board of Eskom as well as Business Leadership South Africa. – Gareth van Zyl
Sens from Imperial Holdings Limited:
Resignation and Appointment of Group Chief Executive Officer
It is with regret that the Board of Imperial Holdings Limited today accepted the resignation of Group Chief Executive Mr Mark Lamberti with effect from 30th April 2018.
This development arises from the recent judgment in which the High Court found in favour of an ex-employee and against AMH, Imperial and Mr Lamberti regarding a series of incidents which commenced in 2014. Damages in the case have to be proven in due course. Since mid-2015, the board has been aware of the developments that culminated in the judgment.
The Board has carefully studied the judgement and accepts the conclusions reached therein. In addition to finding that the ex-employee had suffered damages arising from dismissal by AMH, Mr Lamberti was found to have impaired the dignity of the ex-employee during a conversation on the 15th April 2015. Mr Lamberti has apologised unreservedly for any unintended hurt.
The Board has further resolved to implement corrective action to address deficiencies in Imperial’s gender and race relations culture highlighted in the judgement, bearing in mind that substantial progress in gender and racial transformation within its ranks has been made over the past three years.
The Board has noted the content and tone of the judgement in which there is no finding of defamation, racism or sexism despite extensive and frequently inaccurate publicity directed at Mr Lamberti suggesting that there was.
In light of this, Mr Lamberti has resigned in the interests of the Imperial group and its stakeholders who may be prejudiced by such publicity.
Mr Lamberti has served Imperial with distinction since March 2014, leading a multifaceted portfolio, organisation and management restructuring, a key objective of which was to accelerate executive
development and transformation to align Imperial’s employee and leadership profile with the economically active demographics of South Africa. The Board thanks Mr Lamberti for his excellent leadership and commitment to the Group.
Mark Lamberti must be the first CEO of a listed company in SA to resign over a damaging race issue that had become a staining contagion on the corporate brand. Moral of the story: CEOs must learn from this debacle.
— Sure Kamhunga (@sure_kamhunga) April 18, 2018
The Board is pleased to announce that Mr Osman Arbee, Group Chief Financial Officer from 2013 to 2017 and currently Chief Executive Officer of the Motus division, has been appointed Group Chief Executive Officer with effect from the 1st May 2018, in addition to his position as CEO of Motus.
Mr Arbee was previously a senior partner at Deloitte and Touche and joined the group in 2005. He has been intimately involved in the affairs of Imperial at the highest levels since joining the group and is well placed to assume leadership and continuity of the board approved strategy which commenced in late 2014.
The board confirms that progress with the implementation of its plans to unbundle Motus is at an advanced stage and no obstacles are currently anticipated. As previously announced, the board will make
and announce a final decision on the unbundling before the end of June 2018.
In the event that the unbundling proceeds, the role of Group Chief Executive Officer will become redundant and Mr Arbee will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer of Motus.
Imperial CEO Lamberti quits after insulting female colleague
Lamberti, a veteran of the South African business community, apologized earlier this month for referring to Adila Chowan, an Asian woman, as a “female employment-equity” appointment in front of fellow managers in 2015. He quit the board of state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. three days after being targeted by what he described as a “social-media frenzy,” and resigned his membership of Business Leadership South Africa on Monday.
While the High Court in Pretoria didn’t find Lamberti guilty of racial or gender discrimination, the CEO resigned to protect the Imperial from bad publicity emanating from the case, the company said in a statement Wednesday. The board also pledged to address deficiencies in Imperial’s broader gender and race relations culture that were highlighted in the judgment, it said.
The CEO’s resignation comes as South Africa struggles to recover from the legacy of discrimination against the majority black population under apartheid, which ended in 1994, with most senior executive positions still held by white men.
Osman Arbee, Imperial’s chief financial officer from 2013 to 2017 and the current CEO of the vehicles division, will replace Lamberti on May 1. He’ll be responsible for completing a planned split of the company into separate autos and logistics companies, with a final decision to be made by the end of June. If the move goes ahead, he will return to his present role as CEO of what will be a newly listed company focused on car rental and sales in sub-Saharan Africa.
I have the utmost respect for Mark Lamberti (pushed or jumped) he made a mistake & has taken responsibility. Resigned from Eskom, BUSA & Imperial. No Stalingrad tactics of multiple appeals and digging heels in. That’s leadership.
— Tyrone (@tyronemaseko) April 18, 2018
Imperial shares fell 1.2 percent to 233.87 rand as of 10:21 a.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 47 billion rand ($3.9 billion). The stock has gained almost 40 percent since Lamberti joined in March, 2014. He previously founded and led retailer Massmart Holdings Ltd. before selling a majority stake to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2011.
Lamberti was appointed as an Eskom board member by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year as part of an initiative to clean up a company that was subject to allegations of corruption and mismanagement under predecessor Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa has pledged to fight graft in South Africa, particularly at state-owned companies.