Leaving without even a whimper as Joffe quietly cuts final ties with Bidvest.

By Alec Hogg

On Friday, one of SA’s great conglomerates of our times, Bidvest, released a short announcement on the Stock Exchange News Service. It blandly told us Brian Joffe had resigned as a non-executive director with immediate effect. Barely anyone noticed. That’s a shame.

Brian Joffe

Joffe, who turned 70 in June, started Bidvest and its recently unbundled Bidcorp from scratch 28 years ago. The companies today generate over R250bn in revenues, pay tens of billions in tax and employ around 150,000 people. That’s quite a contribution. Something that should at least warrant more than a bald notice.

During this time it was my privilege to spend plenty of quality time with Joffe, usually in a radio studio, but occasionally over a meal or a cup of tea. Two years ago we had a memorable hour together as Joffe unpacked the Bidvest story. There wasn’t even a hint then of him leaving Bidvest. Indeed, we bantered about whether in a decade or so he would still be he’d be as active as that other masterful capital allocator, Warren Buffett (then 84).

But six months after that interview, Joffe stepped down as CEO. What happened? I texted Joffe to arrange a time to chat. He politely declined, offering a “no comment” to my questions. Such is the way of the corporate world. Sad, isn’t it?

Comment from Biznews community member Lucien Vallun

In the words of Bob Dylan, ‘the times they are a changing’. I was so surprised to read of Brian Joffe’s departure from Bidvest with barely a whimper. So much for a life’s work and the building of a true multinational from relatively humble beginnings in modest offices in Industria on the western outskirts of Johannesburg. I worked for him in the early years when Bidvest was still a fresh addition to the JSE and memories of its roots in Walter Chipkin & Company were still recent. Whilst it was clear even at that time that Brian was a man on a mission destined for greater things, there was little to suggest he would build the global multifaceted enterprise that Bidvest is today. It is therefore particularly sad that his departure from the company was not accompanied by a more appropriate level of recognition. I wish him well in his ‘retirement’ years and his future endeavours.