South Africa

The richest South Africans in 2024 – how they made their money

Johann Rupert is the richest South African in 2024, followed by Nicky Oppenheimer, Patrice Motsepe, Koos Bekker, Micheil Le Roux, and Christo Wiese. 

Forbes revealed this in its latest annual billionaires ranking for 2024, which Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy CEO Bernard Arnault topped. 

The ranking showed South Africa’s dollar-billionaire grouping has swelled to six people, with the return of retail giant Christo Wiese. 

Wiese lost his dollar-billionaire status following the collapse of Steinhoff in 2017, where he lost around R70 billion. He has since regained this status, but not all of his wealth. 

He is now tied with Capitec founder Michiel Le Roux for the position of South Africa’s fifth richest person. 

Aside from the re-admission of Wiese to the rankings, the list of South Africa’s richest people did not change, with Johann Rupert leading the way. 

South Africa’s six richest people are listed below, as well as an overview of how they made their money. 

Johann Rupert and family – R229.1 billion ($12.2 billion)

Johann Rupert is one of South Africa’s most successful and best-known businessmen with investments in many top South African and international companies.

Johann’s father, Anton Rupert, established Voorbrand, a tobacco company, in the 1940s. Voorbrand was the forerunner of Rembrandt, which entered the South African cigarette and tobacco industry in 1948.

In the 1970s, Rembrandt expanded into other industries, like financial services, mining, 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 of RMB until 1984, when RMB and Rand Consolidated Investments merged to form RMB Holdings. He left the company to join Rembrandt.

Soon after joining his father’s company, he spun off Rembrandt’s international assets to form Compagnie Financiere Richemont, a Swiss luxury goods holding company that owns brands like Cartier and Montblanc. In 1991, he was appointed chairman of Rembrandt.

Big changes were made in 2000 when Rembrandt was restructured into two publicly traded holding companies – Remgro and Venfin.

Less than a decade later, Remgro and VenFin merged to form Remgro, of which Johann Rupert is still the chairman.

In 2000, Rupert was appointed chairman and CEO of Richemont, and the company’s non-luxury-related activities were spun off into Reinet Investments in 2008.

Today, Rupert is the chairman of Remgro, Richemont and Reinet.

Richemont is the largest of the three companies, with a market capitalisation of R14.76 trillion (73.62 billion Swiss Francs). Reinet is second with a market cap of R87.1 billion (€3.4 billion), while Remgro is slightly smaller with a R64.04 billion market cap.

Nicky Oppenheimer and family – R178.5 billion ($9.5 billion)

Nicky Oppenheimer inherited an incredible fortune in the form of the De Beers group – the world’s leading diamond mining company.

Nicky’s father, Harry, was the chairman of De Beers and the mining giant Anglo-American. He was in charge of the world’s largest coal, diamonds, gold, and platinum suppliers.

Nicky Oppenheimer decided to sell 40% of DeBeers to Anglo in 2012, which raised $5.2 billion in cash.

He started Fireblade Aviation in 2014, which operates chartered flights.

The Oppenheimer family contribute to conservation efforts in Southern Africa and owns 720 square miles of land across South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Patrice Motsepe – R50.7 billion ($2.7 billion) 

Patrice Motsepe
Patrice Motsepe

Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe has built a tremendous business empire, making him South Africa’s first and only black dollar billionaire and one of the most influential businessmen in the country.

Motsepe made most of his money through his mining company, African Rainbow Minerals, which he launched in 1997. 

Due to his father’s opposition to Apartheid’s segregated schooling systems, Motsepe was sent to a Roman Catholic boarding school in the Eastern Cape along with his six siblings. 

He would go on to attain a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Swaziland and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand. 

Motsepe joined the law firm Bowman Gilfillan in 1988 and rose to be the firm’s first black partner in 1993, specialising in mining and business law. 

Motsepe believed he could use management techniques, particularly low base pay with production incentives, to transform less-productive shafts into profitable operations. 

In 1994, he founded Future Mining, a mining services company which specialised in turning around unprofitable mining shafts. 

African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) was launched by Motsepe in 1997 and was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2002. 

It merged with Harmony Gold and acquired Anglovaal Mining’s unproductive mines in 2003. After this merger, Motsepe took up the role of executive chairman of ARM – a position he holds to this day. 

In 2002, Motsepe was voted South Africa’s Business Leader of the Year by the chief executive officers of the top 100 companies in South Africa. 

In the same year, he was the winner of the Ernst & Young Best Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The success of ARM catapulted Motsepe onto Forbes’ billionaire list in 2005.

Ubuntu-Botho Investments (UBI), Motsepe’s investment vehicle, acquired a significant stake in Sanlam as the insurer’s black empowerment partner in 2004. 

As of 2022, UBI owns 17.8% of Africa’s largest non-banking financial services group, and Motsepe is currently deputy chairman of Sanlam.  

Koos Bekker – R48.9 billion ($2.6 billion) 

As the former CEO of Naspers, Koos Bekker led the media group to one of the greatest venture investments ever when the company acquired a third of the Chinese technology company Tencent.

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, which is 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.

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

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

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.

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.

Michiel le Roux – R22.5 billion ($1.2 billion)

Michiel le Roux founded Capitec in 2001, and it has grown significantly since then. He was chairman of Capitec for almost ten years and still owns approximately 11% of the bank. 

Le Roux trained as a lawyer but never practised law. He had previous banking experience with Boland Bank before starting Capitec with Riaan Stassen, who was the first CEO of the bank.

He has recently come under fire for his significant donations to the Democratic Alliance through his investment holding companies, such as Fynbos Ekwiteit.

Christo Wiese – R22.5 billion ($1.2 billion)  

Businessman Christo Wiese

Christoffel Wiese, known as Christo, was born in Upington in 1941 and went on to matriculate from Paarl Boys High and graduate with an LLB from Stellenbosch University.

After working at the Cape Bar as a lawyer, Wiese joined Pep as a director under Renier van Rooyen. Wiese’s father was one of the first investors in Pep, which began in small towns in rural Karoo.

This was the beginning of Wiese’s success in the South African retail sector.

Wiese soon became chairman of Shoprite Holdings. He oversaw its expansion from a group of eight supermarkets into a company that employs over 150,000 workers and has a market value of R132 billion.

Wiese remains the largest individual shareholder in Shoprite with 10.67% and second only to the Government Employees Pension Fund.

Wiese also helped grow Pepkor into the dominant player in the discount clothing market.

Pepkor has the largest retail store footprint in Southern Africa, with 5,470 stores operating in 10 countries. It employs 47,000 workers.

Pepkor includes well-known retailers such as Pep, Ackermans, Tekkie Town, and Refinery.

It also owns JD Group, which comprises Incredible Connection, HiFi Corp, Everyshop, Russels, Bradlows, and Rochester.

Wiese used to own close to 44% of Pepkor prior to Steinhoff’s purchase of it. After Steinhoff collapsed, Wiese received a cash payment and 5% of Pepkor in exchange for dropping his court cases against Steinhoff.

Alongside his other investments, Wiese owns 37.57% of Invicta Holdings and 11.9% of TradeHold. Wiese is chairman of both Invicta and TradeHold.

Famously, Wiese owned Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch from 1991 until 2012, when he sold it to a foreign investment firm with links to Markus Jooste.


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