Departing Phumelela CEO reckons shares now at R13 are worth R50

By Alec Hogg

Executives are sometimes only appreciated after they’ve departed. And Investec co-founder and Phumelela chairman Bernard Kantor, believes South Africa’s horse racing community will begin to realise this when reflecting on yesterday’s resignation of the JSE-listed betting company’s long-serving CEO. Kantor says “I’m very, very sad to see Rian du Plessis leave.”

Du Plessis tendered his resignation immediately after Phulemela’s audit committee approved financial results for the year to end July. The 57-year-old, who has run the company for nine and a half years, says timing is ideal: the numbers he is responsible for have certified, and when they’re presented to shareholders, successor John Stuart can focus on the way ahead.

The departing head of Phumelela has been given a rough ride by the racing community since the fall from grace of his friend of 40 years, Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. Du Plessis has no regrets: “Yes, I have agreed to stand by him without condoning what he has done. But my departure has absolutely nothing to do with Markus or Steinhoff.”

Independently wealthy after a successful business career (RMB head of corporate finance; CEO of tech group Comparex) Du Plessis was coaxed out of retirement by Kantor and Jooste. While running the business he has steadily bought Phumelela stock and is now its 5th largest shareholder owning 6% of the equity. Will he be selling any shares? “Not unless you bid me at least R50.” That could require a long wait. Yesterday the stock closed at R13.40.