Net Worth: $1.3 billion
Among the black businessmen who have prospered from South African government policies, no star shines more brightly than Patrice Motsepe, the 47-year-old head of the African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) mining group. Forbes magazine estimates his personal fortune at $1.3bn, an amount that makes him one of Africa’s most powerful figures.
Like most black South African tycoons, Motsepe, the son of a small shopkeeper, owes some of his prominence to the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies that have led mainly white corporates to hand over some R500bn ($67bn) in equity to black consortia. Back in the 1990s, with legislation favoring greater black control over business in the wings, Anglo American, the international mining conglomerate, helped finance a deal that transferred ownership of underperforming gold mines to a small mining company Motsepe had established in 1994. He used this good fortune to cut costs and increase productivity in the mines, before using the proceeds of a stock market flotation to liquidate debt.
By 2003, when Harmony Gold, the mining group, sought to unload a stake to a black partner, ARM (in which Motsepe’s family trust owns 43.1%) was ideally placed to benefit, acquiring a 19.8% share in the company. It was a case of excellent timing. Between 2007 and 2008, shares in Harmony Gold doubled in value. By March 2008, Motsepe’s portfolio of assets, which also includes a 5.5% chunk of Sanlam, the life assurance company, was worth a massive $2.5bn.
Last year’s downturn in prices cut the value of his assets in half, but Motsepe’s fortunes still tower above those of his local and regional rivals. It allows him a comfortable, although not extravagant lifestyle – he has just one house – and has enabled him to finance Mamelodi Sundowns, a successful football team.
Motsepe was born in Soweto and after studying law, became the first black partner at Bowman Gilfillan, a Johannesburg law firm. Although he is not as closely involved with the governing African National Congress (ANC) as many other tycoons, his family is connected to the ruling elite, with one sister married to Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC leader, and another to Jeff Radebe, the country’s justice minister.