SoftBank alumnus replaces Van Dijk (51) today as Naspers/Prosus CEO leaves “by mutual agreement”

By Alec Hogg

Former managing partner at the SoftBank Group with intimate involvement in its Vision Fund, Ervin Tu, has taken the reins at South Africa’s most important company, Naspers/Prosus. The twin stocks account for 13% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s major indices, giving them outsized relevance in South African equity portfolios, especially retirement funds.

The group announced this morning that Tu (45), who joined the group as in 2021 chief of investments and head of Mergers & Acquisition, will become the “interim” CEO. The official announcement to shareholders states: “The Naspers and Prosus boards and Bob van Dijk have mutually agreed that Bob will, effective 18 September (ie today) step down from his position as chief executive as well as his position on the board of both companies.”

No details were provided on the reason for the sudden departure of Van Dijk, who has been CEO of the group for the past decade. While at SoftBank, Tu helped lead investment in the super-successful Uber and Bytedance, the parent of Tik Tok. Before SoftBank he was a managing director in the technology banking group at Goldman Sachs. He was Ivy League schooled with an Arts degree from Dartmouth and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Although Van Dijk has been under severe criticism from South African institutional shareholders for some years, the departure is a surprise for two reasons: He is far from retirement age, having only turned 51 in January. Secondly, Naspers/Prosus has long prided itself on succession planning – the group’s two leaders prior to the Hollander were Naspers ‘lifers’ groomed internally over decades before becoming first CEO and then chairman.

Although the graphic below from Wallmine.com is a little outdated, it does show that Tu is one of the youngest members of the Naspers executive.

Here is the official statement issued this morning:

Naspers and Prosus announced today that Bob van Dijk is stepping down as CEO and Board member of Naspers and Prosus after 10 successful years of leadership. Ervin Tu, presently Group Chief Investment Officer, was appointed Interim CEO. Bob will assist with this transition and will remain as a consultant to the Boards until 30 September 2024.

Over his tenure, Bob has contributed meaningfully to the success and future of the Group. Bob has helped establish the Group as a leading global consumer internet company, creating significant value for shareholders.

“The Boards of Prosus and Naspers want to thank Bob for his leadership over a full decade,” said Koos Bekker, chair. “During this time substantial businesses were established in Classifieds, Food Delivery and Payments, while we also entered several new fields. We appreciate Bob’s contributions and wish him much success with his future career.”

Ervin assuming the role as Interim CEO will result in a seamless transition. As the Chief Investment Officer, he has made significant contributions to the strategic direction of the company and will provide continuity in the execution of the Group’s key priorities. That includes bringing the company’s consolidated Ecommerce portfolio to profitability while maintaining growth, and leading capital allocation across the Group.

“Prosus is operating with momentum. I am honored to assume the role and help shape the future of the Group. I couldn’t be more excited about the team around me and to get started,” said Ervin Tu.

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