Foresight and patience. A rare gift, not just in business.

By Alec Hogg

During the peak of Zupta power, 67-year-old South African billionaire Johann Rupert was the prime target for politically-motivated slander. In the global arena, however, his reputation as an entrepreneur with foresight and patience is well established. More so this week after an eight year plan came to fruition.

Johann Rupert, founder and chairman of Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, speaks with delegates during the Business of Luxury summit in Monaco. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

In 2010, Rupert’s Richemont paid an apparent £50m (price not formally disclosed) to acquire control of online fashion retailer Net-A-PorterFive years later Rupert engineered its merger with Federico Marchetti’s online luxury retailer, creating the Bora Italiana-listed Yoox Net-A-Porter, better known as YNAP.

This week Richemont concluded the formalities and will pay €2.6bn (R38bn) for 100% ownership of the company which now dominates the booming online luxury retailing sector, something pundits claimed would never work. YNAP sites recorded 842m visits last year, with 40% of its sales by 3.1m active customers generated by the top 2% of its clients.

Yoox founder and YNAP chief Marchetti told the FT over the weekend that Rupert, whom he describes as like “an elder brother” is setting Richemont up for the next generation: “He is very long term. He is preparing the future for digital customers.” Foresight and patience. A rare gift. Not just in business.