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Steinhoff's former chair Christo Wiese in the spotlight

Kyrene Zuo 2017-12-19 13:58:18
Investors are meeting in London on Tuesday to decide the fate of household goods giant Steinhoff.

The firm owns 6,500 retail outlets in 30 countries, including the UK's Poundland and furniture chains Bensons and Harveys.

After revelations of accounting irregularities, Steinhoff's shares collapsed and executives resigned.

Now, shareholders must decide whether to keep Steinhoff afloat or sell off assets to recoup some money.

One person in the spotlight is Christo Wiese - Steinhoff's former chair and its largest shareholder.

He's one of South Africa's richest businessmen - and one of its most respected, with a reputation for having something of a Midas touch.

Mr Wiese holds a stake in investment firm Brait SE, which is a majority shareholder in several other UK businesses including Virgin Active and fashion retailer New Look.

But since the scandal emerged earlier this month, the fall in the value of his investments has wiped out a large chunk of his net worth.

Forbes estimated his fortune has plummeted from $5.8bn to $742m.

Who is Christo Wiese?
Mr Wiese was appointed chairman of Steinhoff in 2016 and had been a board member since 2013.

But Mr Wiese resigned from his post last week to ease concerns about possible conflicts of interest between being chairman while also being Steinhoff's biggest shareholder.

His son, Jacob, also stepped down from the board.

Christo Wiese holds a 22% stake in the firm, a holding that came from the sale of his clothing retailer Pepkor to Steinhoff in 2014 for a combination of cash and shares.

Mr Weise started Pepkor in 1965 but is best known for expanding South African grocery chain Shoprite from just six shops in the 1970s to hundreds of shops across the continent.

The 76-year-old was also instrumental in turning Steinhoff into a global household retailer from its humble roots selling cheap furniture imported from communist eastern European countries.