Johann Rupert is one of South Africa’s best-known billionaires with shareholding in a large number of South African and international companies.
Bloomberg estimated Rupert’s wealth at $9.61 billion — around R140 billion — which gives an idea of the scale of his business empire.
Through Remgro, he has investments in the financial, healthcare, consumer products, industrial, infrastructure, media, and sports industries.
He also controls the Switzerland-based luxury goods holding company, Richemont, which boasts brands like Cartier, Dunhill, and Mont Blanc.
To understand Remgro, Richemont, and the Rupert family, one has to go back to the 1940s when his father, Anton Rupert, established the tobacco company Voorbrand.
Voorbrand was the forerunner of Rembrandt, which entered the South African cigarette and tobacco industry in 1948.
Rupert and D W R Hertzog also founded Distillers Corporation in the forties with interests in the wine and spirits industry.
Rembrandt was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 1956, six years after Johann Rupert was born.
Since the 1970s, Rembrandt expanded its interests through investments in banking and financial services, mining, printing and packaging, medical services, engineering, and food.
During this period, Johann Rupert studied economics at the University of Stellenbosch but dropped out to pursue a career in business.
He worked for Chase Manhattan and Lazard Freres in New York before returning to South Africa in 1979 to start Rand Merchant Bank (RMB).
He was CEO until 1984 when RMB and Rand Consolidated Investments merged to form RMB Holdings. Johann Rupert left to join his father’s company, the Rembrandt Group.
Four years later, in 1988, he founded Richemont and was appointed non-executive director of Rothmans International. In 1991 he was appointed chairman of the Rembrandt Group.
Rembrandt co-founded South Africa’s first cellular telephony company, Vodacom, in 1993. It sold its stake in the mobile operator in 2006.
In 1995, Rembrandt and Richemont consolidated their tobacco interests in Rothmans International. Four years later, it merged these interests with those of British American Tobacco (BAT).
Since then, the investment in BAT was held through a joint holding company in which Rembrandt (Remgro’s predecessor) and Richemont held shares.
In 2000, Rembrandt Group was restructured to form Remgro and VenFin. In the same year, Johann Rupert was appointed chairman and CEO of Richemont.
In November 2009, Remgro and VenFin merged, adding media and technology interests to Remgro’s investments.
Today Remgro has interests in numerous South African companies in banking, financial, healthcare, freight, food, entertainment, and telecoms.
Johann Rupert serves as chairman of both Remgro and Richemont. His son, Anton Rupert, is a non-executive director at both companies.
Johann Rupert’s investments
To appreciate the scale of the business empire which the Rupert family has built, it is important to look at all the businesses in which Remgro and Richemont have shareholdings.
Remgro has many of South Africa’s top banking and financial companies in its portfolio, including FNB, RMB, WesBank, Discovery, Momentum Metropolitan, and OUTsurance.
Its telecoms and media investments include Vumatel, DFA, Seacom, Sqwidnet, e.tv, eNCA, Openview, and YFM.
Remgro also owns Mediclinic, ER24, the Blue Bulls, Total, Grindrod, and many top South African food and liquor brands.
The images below provide an overview of the companies in which the Rupert family has an interest.
The table at the end of this article provides a more comprehensive overview of the companies in which Remgro and Richemont have shareholdings.