How Koos Bekker made his billions

Koos Bekker is one of South Africa’s most well-known billionaires. Today, he has a net worth of R45 billion ($2.4 billion), according to Forbes.

Bekker cofounded M-Net/MultiChoice in 1985 – the first pay-television service outside the United States.

He is best known for his tenure as the CEO of Naspers, a multinational media and technology company based in South Africa.

Naspers was founded in 1915 as an Afrikaans newspaper publisher. Under Bekker’s leadership, it transformed into an Internet investing giant and became Africa’s most valuable company.

Bekker was instrumental in Naspers’ investment in Chinese social media and gaming giant Tencent in 2001, which has since become one of the most successful investments in corporate history.

Naspers holds a significant stake in Tencent, worth billions of dollars.

The company has also maintained its presence in local news, owning Africa’s largest publisher of magazines and newspapers – Media24. Naspers also owns Takealot, South Africa’s largest online retailer.

What set Bekker apart from other CEOs at the time was his willingness to embrace innovation and a global, long-term outlook for his company.

These traits allowed Bekker to benefit from the internet revolution in the 1990s and 2000s and invest in Tencent. 

His management style was also unique, as Bekker was known for his hands-off approach. This style helped him attract and retain talented executives who could take charge of the business’s day-to-day operations while he had the freedom to focus on strategic planning.

One of Bekker’s most interesting – and riskiest – approaches to business was his compensation structure.

In 1999, Bekker made the unusual decision to forego his salary, bonuses, and other perks and instead elected to be compensated through stock options.

This tied his personal wealth directly to the success of Naspers and its investments and aligned his interests with those of shareholders.

While a risky move at the time, it has since become one of the smartest business decisions in his career.

Over the years, Bekker’s share options became increasingly valuable as Naspers’ investments in companies like Tencent paid off. In 2015, he exercised some options to purchase shares in Naspers.

This risky decision in 1999 to be paid in Naspers shares made him one of the richest people in South Africa.

In 2019, Bekker stepped down as Naspers CEO. He now serves as chairman and remains an important shareholder in the company. 

Aside from his stake in Naspers, Bekker has many other interests that have allowed him to achieve his wealth.

Bekker owns several wine estates in South Africa, including the well-known Babylonstoren in Stellenbosch.

He also owns other properties across the country and abroad, including a multi-million-pound estate, The Newt, in Somerset in the United Kingdom.

Bekker is also known for his philanthropy, with conservation and education projects lying close to his heart.