'I differ from Guptas', says billionaire Johann Rupert

Billionaire Johann Rupert, falsely accused of colluding with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to reverse President Jacob Zuma's decision to appoint a finance minister in December, regards his business empire as fundamentally different from the Guptas.

"Unlike the Guptas, Remgro does not do business with the state," he said.

In an interview with Sowetan, Rupert said he did not believe in political party funding and that he was not bothered by Zuma's son Edward opening a criminal case against him because he has nothing to hide.

"Neither I nor any of our companies have donated to political parties - see our annual reports," he said.

On Edward laying charges against him, he said: "Our annual reports and accounts have always been open to all our shareholders - including all the pension funds who have benefitted more than we have as a family."

Rupert is chairman of the diversified investment company of which he owns 7%.

Rupert came under the spotlight after Zuma claimed at an ANC national executive committee meeting that he had met a senior ANC leader to reverse the appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister.

A few days earlier, The New Age, owned by the Gupta family, had claimed that Rupert had flown from London to meet Ramaphosa.

Rupert is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net asset value of R80-billion. He said there was nothing wrong with having widespread business interests that may amount to political influence "as long as it is done openly and not behind closed doors it can be for the good of society".

"A number of us confronted the old National Party to get rid of apartheid. Then we were called communists and worse," he said.

Remgro holds significant stakes in companies operating in most sectors of the economy.

Rupert's empire's contribution to South Africa between 1994 and 2014 was a corporate value of R542.1-billion for SA shareholders. This was through Richemont which was created without exporting any capital or raw materials.

The group also generated R81.2-billion of additional repatriated wealth through dividends and capital repatriations. For many years the family-controlled companies repatriated more dividends to SA than the rest of the JSE combined.

It also paid taxes of R32.6-billion, excluding excise duties paid by British American Tobacco South Africa and Distell.

There were 573502 jobs created through the Small Business Development Corporation which was started in 1979, which is now known as Business Partners. Remgro employs 141000 people in SA.

'Excellent strategist'

PSG wealth analyst Adrian Cloete said the value of companies in which companies of Rupert are invested in are worth 15% of the JSE.

"If you think of the component of the value he added to shareholders, he has created a lot of value for the shareholders and he has done a huge amount for the country," he said.

"Johann has done an exceptional business, he is an excellent strategic thinker who takes long-term business decisions."

"The other thing is that Johann is a hard worker who is determined and surrounds himself with competent people who know how to go to the right markets," he said.

Cloete said Rupert strove to create sustainable jobs and when Richemont performed poorly in 2009, he, instead of firing his personnel, cut their working hours until business conditions normalised.

But Richemont recently announced that due to tough trading conditions it aimed to chop 350 jobs.

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