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South African Business Leaders



Di Smith - Awesome SA
Di Smith - Awesome SA

Di Smith - Awesome SA

(Photo : Life Times)


A note from a local icon in her own right. Di Smith is the author of You’re Awesome and Awesome South Africa, and the driving force behind several of South Africa’s most successful upliftment initiatives through her foundation Awesome SA. Her man Guy, is the inspiration behind, among others, the landmark developments Gowrie and Prince’s Grant, and both were recent visitors to Summerhill and Hartford House. The occasion marked the 60th year in business of one of our capital city’s most celebrated law firms, Venn, Nemeth & Hart.

Di wrote: “I sat down at my computer after arriving back from Summerhill to find this quotation on my desktop and immediately thought of you. “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is a triumph of some enthusiasm” - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I want to thank you for the foresight, enthusiasm, dedication and hard work with which you and Cheryl have created Summerhill. It is indeed a place of excellence, not only in KwaZulu-Natal, but takes its place among the best stud farms in the world. That you have achieved such greatness is through the “triumph of enthusiasm”. Endeavours such as yours, situated in the heart of the Natal Midlands, fills me with the strength I need to continue with Awesome SA, often in the face of adversity. You and Cheryl are among the people of every race, colour and creed who have stood together and are standing together right now, at the beginning of 2012, working towards creating a positive future for this beloved country of ours. For this I thank you!

Guy will not doubt be writing to you himself to thank you for inspiring the partners of Venn, Nemeth & Hart. He was delighted with what appears to be a positive outcome by his partners spending an afternoon and evening with you at Summerhill on Wednesday.

With many thanks once again for your inspiring and continual enthusiasm for Summerhill and this amazing country in which we live”.

Some praise from some lady.

summerhill stud, south africa
summerhill stud, south africa




Bernard Swanepoel
Bernard Swanepoel

Bernard Swanepoel

(Image : Times / Telegraph)


When Alan Sutherland made his Rothman’s July winner’s speech as the breeder of the first and second home (Teal and Barellen), he made specific reference to Summerhill (we are neighbours), and suggested the roles had been reversed. Pointedly, he said “now Mickey Goss knows what its like to be living next door to Alice!”. In more recent times, properties neighbouring on Summerhill, have reached an all-time high in popularity terms, with people of the ilk of Moneyweb’sAlec Hogg, top French breeders Xavier and Natalie Bozo (of chocolate manufacturer Lanvin fame) and one of South Africa’s most famous mining sons, Bernard Swanepoel, having invested on our borders.

This weekend, the Sunday Times carried an article on our man, Swanepoel, which not only complimented him, but flattered those who live in his vicinity.

“Entrepreneurial mining engineer Bernard Swanepoel said he is ready to take on the role of “coach” while leaving the corporate responsibilities of running a business in the hands of others.

Swanepoel said the advantage of having retired three times by the time you are 50 is you can really go into what you enjoy in life.

“Instead of having to deal with all the administrative and corporate duties a CEO takes on every day, I would prefer to go to a new acquisition like the contemplated Blyvooruitzicht gold mine and assist the guys on the ground start making money from this asset.”

The ex-Harmony CEO created a new vehicle, Village Main Reef (Village), in recent years to take on ailing mining assets and make them profitable. The company proved the strategy in its latest results, which saw the troubled Buffelsfontein operation become profitable.

“Even though we have now only taken the mine from intensive care to rehab, this is the most successful turnaround I have seen during my 30 years in this business. We expect the mine to turn into a world-class athlete,” said Swanepoel.

The company took over Buffelsfontein and Tau Lekoa mines from Simmer & Jack (Simmers), where Marius Saaiman was CEO and also “the last man standing”, according to Swanepoel.

Saaiman, now chief financial officer, will take over from Swanepoel early next year.

Village plans to mine Tau Lekoa for the rest of its life - about five years. “Running this mine at current gold prices is like printing cash,” said Swanepoel. But the company plans to sell the property across from Tau Lekoa, Weltevreden, also inherited from Simmers, in the first half of the new year.

Swanepoel described ConsMurch as “a cute little thing”. The company bought it for R30-million, an amount it now makes every six months from the mine.

Saaiman said the operation has a strong management team and significant value has been added. The company might look to the East for a 50% buy-in in the antimony producer, used to make fire-retardant products.

Village recently doubled its inferred platinum resource base to 41.8million ounces at Lesego. “The project has lived up to even my wildest expectations, and I have had some pretty wild expectations over the years,” said Swanepoel.

Swanepoel emphasised that the story is not a “Harmony take two” but a different game altogether.

He explained that the current operating environment is not at all like that of the time he headed Harmony. “Back then it was all about size, but right now it is all about the D-word - dividends - which is what our business plan revolves around. We ourselves are heavily invested in Village. We want to almost be like demanding shareholders, not corporate fat cats with helicopters and glass buildings. We unashamedly want it all, great safety, great returns and next month we want more,” commented the aspirant coach.


Classic double for the Becks at GAINESWAY FARM

(Photo : Stallion Register)

Just on twenty years ago, I was privy to a glimpse at an intimate connection at the Breeders’ Cup meeting of 1990 between local “el padrino”, Graham Beck, and the then founder not only of Gainesway Farm, but also of the Breeders’ Cup, John Gaines. Earlier that day, Buddy Bishop, renowned solicitor operating in Lexington, Kentucky, and legal counsel to what was then the principal opposition to Gainesway, the Hancock family’s famous Claiborne Farm, confided in me that a South African was rumoured to have purchased Gainesway. I was astonished, and dismissed it as conjecture. After all, this was the farm that housed the likes of Lyphard, Blushing Groom, Riverman, Vaguely Noble, Irish River, Cozzene, Afleet etc, and it was almost inconceivable that it should be a South African that had put up his hand for this iconic property, when all the world was there to compete for it.

It turned out that Buddy Bishop’s “intelligence” was spot-on, and that the enterprise of Graham Beck, the stuff of legend in South Africa, had indeed laid claim to one of the greatest titles in thoroughbred racing. I wrote about this property two weeks ago as a place of solace to me on the passing of my late mother, and today we can celebrate the fact that one of its resident stallions, Birdstone (who spoilt the party for Funny Cide in his quest for the American Triple Crown, by snatching the laurels in the final leg of the Belmont Stakes (Gr.1), has produced from his very first crop, two winners of separate legs of the Triple Crown.

The first and arguably the most famous leg, the Kentucky Derby (Gr.1) was taken in spectacular fashion by a 50-1 chance in the form of Mine That Bird (by Birdstone), who came from a shotgun position at the back of the field to land a storied victory by six, and who was the sole pursuer of the filly Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1) a fortnight later.

In the absence of the filly, Mine That Bird was made a certainty by the bettors for Saturday, and he looked home and hosed shortly after they turned into Belmont’s fabled straight, only to be swamped by two foes, one of whom was his paternal half-brother, Summer Bird, who came home to proclaim his sire, if not yet quite in the same league as Medaglia D’Oro as a commercial stallion, certainly every bit as serious a property in reality.

Birdstone is the son of a Kentucky Derby winner himself, the rather unattractive and poor legged Grindstone, he in turn by Unbridled and tracing back, (no alarms), to Mr. Prospector, whose stamp on the American classics is as indelible as any stallion in history. As for Birdstone, he’s not a big fellow (I would say he stands 15’3 at the most) and he’s what one might describe as a “plain brown job”. However, and particularly considering his ancestral belongings, he’s a clean legged horse, well balanced and displays the touch of class that separates the serious from the ordinary.


Watch the 2009 Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby

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Breeding Racehorses : A Matter of Family

 goss family

The Goss Family
(Summerhill Sires Brochure 2008/2009)


The tradition of producing quality racehorses goes back almost eight decades among the Gosses. But their admiration for horses as a family has its origins in ancient Ireland, before the Battle of Boyne.


Ever since, they’ve held a warm affection for the sport of horseracing, and especially for the animals at the heart of it. The custodianship of that association was never more proudly revered than under the stewardships of Mick’s great grandfather, Edward, his grandfather Pat, and his own father Bryan, and today the manifestation of their obsession lies in everything you see at Summerhill.


It is true that in modern times, Summerhill” is a splendid, much-envied brand. Because in the eighty years since they first started breeding racehorses on a tiny scale at The Springs in east Griqualand, the Goss family have never breached the founding principles of excellence and audaciousness, laid down by the man who embodied them.


What you’re looking at here, all over again, is history. And more history, in the making. And you’re more than welcome to join us in making some of your own. Because there’s one thing that’s as true today as it was at the Battle of Boyne. We only win if you do.

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investec“Investec to sponsor English Derby”

Ask any student of racing twenty years ago which the greatest racing event in the world was, and they would’ve unhesitatingly answered the English Derby. Today the title is a vigorous contest between the “Derby” (as it’s commonly known), Paris’ Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Dubai’s World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Kentucky Derby, and perhaps the Japan Cup. Certainly, if not alone the greatest, the English Derby stands apart as the most famous.

For all that, who would ever have expected an upstart South African bank to become the Derby’s sponsor? Upstart, did we say? Yes, in global terms that’s probably an apt description, but Investec has always been an innovator, a “breed-shaper”, as we might term it in racing parlance, and that’s exactly what the local banking pacemaker agreed to this week for the next five years.

No doubt, the hand of Bernard Kantor, avid racing man and the fellow that bought us Count Dubois, was more than prominent in this relationship, which follows a £38 million revamp of the Derby’s home, Epsom Downs.

Did we leave out another marquee event when we counted the “big five”? Yes, we probably did, and that’s Royal Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which for almost two decades was sponsored by South Africa’s De Beers. The difference here is that, at the time, De Beers happened to be the world’s biggest diamond producer, whilst Investec has a way to go before it can claim the same status in the banking world. Maybe, just maybe, this is a precursor of what’s to come.

Well done, Investec. From one champion team to another, we salute you.

South African Resilience Dictates National Sales

south african fight (michael nefdt)“…it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale
“Tommy” Tops the Trade

Readers of the Summerhill Sire’s Brochure last year, will recall the statement “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”, that probably sums up the resilience of South Africans. And if ever you needed evidence of it, you’d have wanted a seat at the ringside at Sunday’s proceedings.

An average price of R321,000 after three hundred Lots had been traded, and an aggregate closing on R80million, tells it’s own story, with every indication the aggregate would sail past the R100million mark by the end of yesterday. Stories of trade 40% down at Sydney’s Easter Sales (running concurrently), might have had most people quivering in their boots. But South Africans, with a history of dealing with adversity in so many different shapes and forms, can always be relied upon to exhibit their standard traits of courage and foresight, and their looking forward rather than behind them. That goes for a number of our overseas adherents too, who make the pilgrimage each year.

National Yearling Sale '09 Update

charles laird (heather morkel)Charles Laird at the TBA Sales Complex, Gosforth Park, Johannesburg
(Photo : Heather Morkel)


Look, let’s not forget, this is only a news flash reflecting just one night’s business, but on the face of things, a horse sale which is only 21,7% off last year’s record highs, given the state of the international economy, has to be a good result.

With international bourses down 40-50% and our own stock market in a 30% retreat, you’d have expected at least a similar outcome at the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale. But those who tuned in to Alec Hogg’s interview with Summerhill’s Mick Goss on Moneyweb’s business affairs programme last evening, would have been buoyed by the news of the number of “wannabe” buyers parading through the TBA’s sales complex at Gosforth Park, in the days leading into the sale, and his prediction that the “ponies” would outperform the market.

Like the three kings of biblical fame, they’ve come from the UK, the USA, Hong Kong, Australia, France and Singapore, to pay their respects to the cream of South African breeding, and from what we’ve heard, they’ve not been disappointed at what’s on show.

In the end, an average of R306 500 was a pleasing return, especially in the light of the fact there were only three millionaires in the evening to influence matters, and nothing approaching R2million.

Battle of the night, despite a top price of R1,5million, was the right to own the Spectrum half sister to Warm White Night and dual Gold Cup hero, Highland Night, in which the formidable combination of Markus Jooste and Charles Laird finally prevailed at R1,3million.

What is evident thus far, is that the gap between the progeny of the big three sires and those of the next tier, is no longer so glaringly apparent. Emerging sires Kahal, Muhtafal, National Emblem and Captain Al are growing in popularity with every sale, which the Summerhill team has to be delighted with the first showing of Cataloochees (2 fillies at R350k and R210k respectively), while Solskjaer is expected to kickoff in a big way Sunday.

Highlights of Summerhill’s evening were a R450k Kahal, brother to Gold Cup winner, Desert Links, (sold for the late Sheikh Maktoum’s Financial Director Stephen Gill, and Greig and Michelle Muir’s Muhtafal own sister to Alejate, at a cool R425k from the indomitable Michael Azzie.

Click here to listen to Alec Hogg’s interview with Mick Goss

Racingweb goes live!


“World, hold on tight” because South African racing online media has changed forever… is born.

Racingweb is a revolutionary horseracing media venture forging the talent and drive of South African horseracing entrepreneur, Charl Pretorius, and radio, TV and financial world celebrity, Alec Hogg.

RICHARD MAPONYA : Spirit of African Entrepreneurship

richard maponya and shemaghRichard Maponya and Shemagh
(Realtime/Maponya Mall/Summerhill)


A new book on remarkable achievement has just been released, and interestingly, Richard Branson wrote the foreword. In it, he says “that across Africa, the spirit of entrepreneurship is very much alive, leaving me constantly amazed by the incredible energy and determination and innovation coming from entrepreneurs across the continent”.

Acknowledging Pliny The Elder’s Latin statement : ex Africa semper aliquid novi, (out of Africa there is always something new), the Nigerian born author, Moki Miqura identifies sixteen dynamic and outstandingly daring African men, who’ve built sustainable enterprises which can be benchmarked alongside the best in the world. The author tells us that these men have worked ingeniously within the context of the historical, economic and political climates of their respective countries; manoeuvred their way through hostile business environments, antagonistic governments, repressive systems, personal poverty and even a lack of education, to be counted among some of the world’s most formidable giants of business.

One of these sixteen achievers is South Africa’s Richard Maponya, who against all odds and obstacles presented by the apartheid government, is today one of the most celebrated and respected entrepreneurs in South Africa. Maponya succeeded in achieving many firsts in South Africa. He was the first person to open a dairy shop and milk delivery service in Soweto. He also brought the township its first grocery store which grew into a lucrative chain of eight Soweto-based discount supermarkets, making him (at one time) the single largest employer in Soweto.

In 2007 Richard’s long-lived dream finally came true when he opened Maponya Mall, the country’s first mega-mall to be built in a township. His simple statement on his latest achievement is “Sowetans deserve the best”, and in his recent acquisition of Shemagh (by Malhub out of the Northern Guest mare Dress Code) at November’s Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale, we’d like to think that Richard Maponya, in his own right, deserves the best. Well done, Michael Azzie, for bringing this struggle icon back into the game.