Shoprite Holdings Ltd., Africa’s largest food retailer, said in an official press release that the company’s founder Whitey Basson will retire as chief executive officer, ending his 37-year tenure that saw the South African company grows to become the continent’s biggest food retailer. Shoprite currently operates 1855 corporate and 359 franchise outlets in 15 countries across Africa and the Indian Ocean Island.
The Board has appointed Pieter Engelbrecht (47), former Chief Operating Officer, as the incoming CEO as of the first of January 2017. He has been with the company for 20 years and has played a leading role in the company’s growth under Basson’s leadership. The official release said that the outgoing CEO, Basson, who turns 71 in January, will step down at the end of December.
“I am tired — the business is now so large and there are so many issues that take up too much time,” Basson told reporters at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Cape Town Monday. “Pieter is a very driven guy. I’d say about 50 percent of the operating issues he’s already taken over. So it’s not a new job for him.”
“Whitey has been a very strong and charismatic leader, who has managed the company through market transitions and challenging times, taking calculated risks to turn the supermarket group into the leading retailer on the continent,” said chairman and top shareholder Christo Wiese. Shares in Shoprite rose 4.5 percent to 199.70 rand after the company reported a 15.7 percent rise in quarterly sales in a separate statement.
Basson’s decision to retire will bring to a close a remarkable career of nearly 45 years, virtually all of which was spent with Shoprite, in which the business grew from a small eight-store chain with a value of R1 million to a globally respected retailer with a market capitalisation of R114 billion, and over 140 000 employees today.