South African businessman Christo Wiese has resigned as chairman of Steinhoff in order to reinforce independent governance of the company which is currently under scrutiny, and avoid any “possible conflict of interest” that may exist. His son Jacob has also resigned.
Steinhoff announced Heather Sonn as new acting chairperson.
76-year-old Wiese recently dropped overnight from being a dollar billionaire to a millionaire, as shares in Steinhoff International – of which he is a major shareholder – plummeted following allegations of “accounting irregularities”, which were discovered by German authorities.
The corruption scandal wiped $12 billion from Steinhoff’s value and an estimated $2.8 billion off Wiese’s personal fortune after news of the scandal broke.
Well known South African writer Max du Preez tweeted at the time: “Christo Wiese lost some R130 bn in one week through Steinhoff collapse. He must be as broken up as I was last week when I forgot a new book I had just bought on the plane.”
Former Steinhoff CEO, and fellow South African, Markus Jooste was allegedly involved in the company irregularities… which may be one of the biggest corporate scandals ever in South Africa. Steinhoff has 40 retail brands in over 30 countries around the world.
Jooste resigned immediately and Steinhoff’s Supervisory Board appointed Wiese as Executive Chairman (Delegated Supervisory Chairman) on an interim basis.
Tens of thousands of South Africans were also affected as shareholder PIC (Public Investment Corporation), which invested money on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), also lost millions overnight. According to Government news site, SA News, the GEPF has assured its members that their pensions are safe.
PIC had said yesterday that it felt there was a potential conflict of interest with Wiese as interim CEO.
The scandal has since grown as Steinhoff announced in a statement on Thursday that the independent committee believes the irregularities stretch back to 2016… so “the 2016 consolidated financial statements will need to be restated and can no longer be relied upon.”
Wiese has been one of South Africa’s most successful retail tycoons, most famous for his Shoprite chain which he acquired in the ’70s, and grew from six stores to hundreds all over Africa. But it was in the previous decade that he started with budget clothing store Pepkor in his hometown of Upington.
In an interview with his daughter Clare Wiese-Wentzel, published on SAPeople last year, Christo Wiese said: “Growing up in Upington is something I am very grateful for because of the life lessons I learned in a beautiful but harsh part of the world, one of them being that life is not always a bed of roses and sometimes you just have to get on with it…”
Remember this? Christo Wiese was busted carrying $1,000,000 CASH in a suitcase. This Is What Happens When A Billionaire Tries To Get On A Plane With $1 Million Cash In His Luggage via @forbes https://t.co/uOK2RpCRij #SteinhoffFraud #Steinhoff
— Simon Grindrod (@SimonPGrindrod) December 7, 2017
If you believe Christo Wiese did not know what was happening to about 4 billion dollars of his stash, please DM me your ceedit card details and CVV number so that I can check it for security purposes… #Steinhoff @tumisole
— Johan Pienaar (@JohanPienaar) December 7, 2017