Shoprite has named Absa chair Wendy Lucas-Bull as its chair-designate, expected to replace Christo Wiese after the group’s AGM in November.
Lucas-Bull chairs Absa Group, Absa Bank and Absa Financial Services, and has extensive banking, executive and board experience, Shoprite said.
Lucas-Bull was formerly chair of Lafarge Industries and deputy chair of Aveng. She has also been on the boards of Barclays, Anglo American Platinum, Alexander Forbes, Eskom, Nedbank, Telkom and the Development Bank of SA.
Wiese will remain on the board as a non-executive director after the AGM on November 16, but step down as chair.
“On behalf of the board, we welcome Wendy and wish her success in her role as an independent, non-executive board member and chair-designate,” said Wiese. “There is no doubt her expertise, experience and leadership will be of considerable benefit to both the board and the Shoprite group.”
Wiese, the biggest individual shareholder of Shoprite, was chair for almost three decades. Shoprite was forced to announce in November 2019 that it would replace Wiese by this year’s November AGM, after he fell out of favour with shareholders.
The board reappointed Wiese as chair at the 2019 AGM at which 61% of ordinary shareholders voted against his reappointment as a director, but lost, as Wiese, who has just more than 10% of the share capital, controlled 42% of the votes.
On the same day as Wiese’s reappointment in 2019, Shirley Zinn, the lead independent non-executive director, who had joined the board only the year before, unexpectedly announced her resignation with immediate effect.
The move to reduce Wiese’s influence was boosted last year when All Weather Capital nominated former Pepkor head Jan le Roux as a director of Shoprite, in an unprecedented move just before the Shoprite’s AGM.
At the time, Shane Watkins from All Weather Capital, which has shares in Shoprite, told Bloomberg, “We need some forces on the board that will balance Wiese’s influence.” The bid failed due to Wiese’s extra voting shares, but highlighted unhappiness with his continued position as chair at the retailer.
A previous move to dilute Wiese’s influence in 2019 failed after shareholders objected to the R3.3bn compensation costs.
Wiese was once one of the country’s richest men after building Pepkor into an empire, which he sold to Steinhoff in 2014 in exchange for about 20% of the global furniture retailer.
Wiese’s net worth was decimated when Steinhoff’s share price collapsed in 2017 and the largest fraud scandal to ever hit SA business was uncovered.