Widely known as the first black African to make it to the Forbes list of billionaires in 2008, Patrice Motsepe is South Africa’s business magnate and lawyer whose sphere of influence stretches from legal practice to international business operations. He is the Founder and the Executive Chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, a South African-based mining and mineral company with portfolios in production and investment in areas that include manganese ore, platinum group metals (PGMs), copper, coal, gold and chrome alloys, which he launched in 1997 as the ARMgold.
He provides leadership and direction for all managerial processes targeted at ushering in more businesses and expanding clientele. His contributions to the growth of ARMgold aredifficult to ignore and his business intelligence has played a large role in turning the business fortunes of the firm around. In 1997, when the prices of gold were rock-bottom, he took a blind leap incurring debts of about $7.7 million to purchase six gold mine shafts from AngloGold. This single item would become major source of income to the company in later years, accounting for more than half of its revenue. It was based on his ingenuity that ARM, in 2006, proposed and implemented coal mining as an expansion option for its niche, has again increasing the firm’s profitability beyond gold and other metal mining.
Motsepe started out his professional career in 1988 when he joined Bowman Gilfillan law firm as an Associate, having trained and qualified as a legal practitioner in the same year. With his brief stint at Bowman Gilfillan, he acquired business management skills and gained insight into the operation of mining industry through his specialized practice in mining and business law. After six years of practice, he rose through ranks to become the first black partner at the law firm in 1994, having worked as a visiting attorney with the American law firm McGuire, Woods, Battle & Booth in 1991-1992.
His career took a new turn in 1994 when he left Bowman Gilfillan to break into the mining industry as a businessman. The audacity to take such wild bet would not be unconnected with the business experience he garnered in his youth, helping his father to manage his small liquor distribution business. The promotion of black economic empowerment at this time which mandated 26% black ownership of companies before a mining license could be granted, paved way for Motsepe to gain a firm stand in the industry. In 1995, he founded Future Mining, a contract mining firm which provided quality services to Vaal Reefs gold mine in the form of cleaning of gold dust from inside mine shafts. With the application of unique management techniques, he transformed what was considered to be the least-productive aspect of mine shaft business into a money-spinning operation. He achieved this by adopting a combination of low-pay system and profit-sharing form of remuneration.
In the spirit of entrepreneurship and robust understanding of the country’s business legal and political frameworks, Motsepe started buying and operating mines. Subsequently, he launched ARMgold in 1997, and began to forge partnerships with other companies, particularly the Greene and Partners Investments which he formed with his associates in 1999. So effective was his leadership in the firm that by 2002, ARMgold was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). In 2003, he coordinated the acquisition of Anglovaal Mining (Avmin) as well as the reorganization processes of ARMgold and led it into a merger with the Harmony Gold Mining Limited. His input in the transformation process stood out so much so that he was installed the Founder and Executive Chairman of the new company to be renamed African Rainbow Minerals in 2004. Motsepe is the single largest shareholder and investor of the gold mining company. Not one to relent with little achievements, in 2016, he launched a new private equity firm called African Rainbow Capital as a subsidiary of Ubuntu-Botho Investments, to focus on investment in Africa. By 2018, his firm, African Rainbow Minerals, had had a 19.8 per cent control of Harmony Gold Mining Limited’s assets, with his family trust shares running to about 43.1 per cent of ARM, an investment valued at $1 billion.
Motsepe serves on several management boards. He is the President of South Africa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Interim Chairman of the Black Business Council; Non-Executive Chairman of Harmony Gold Mining Co. Limited and the Deputy Chairman of Sanlam Life Insurance Limited; Non-executive Director at Absa Group position in which he has been serving since 2004. He is also a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a group of 100 influential captains and chief executives from all industries. Motsepe sits also, on the JP Morgan International Council and the Harvard Global Advisory Council. He is also President of Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club, a football club he bought into in 2004 when his business interest expanded to football investment, having made an early 51 % interest commitment in 2003. Previously, he has served as the President of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), a well-known business advocacy group in the country from 2004 to 2008; and the Chairman of Teal Exploration and Mining Incorporated.
His impactful career has won him commendations from several quarters including his Outstanding Leadership Award by the BRICS Business Council in 2014; African Business Roundtable, USA, Entrepreneur & Freedom of Trade Award and the McGuire Woods Outstanding Alumnus Awards in 2009; Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Special Board Member by the South African Jewish Report in 2004; MS Louw Award for Exceptional Business Achievement from Afrikaanse Handels Instituut in 2003; South Africa’s Business Leader of the Year Award by the chief executive officers of the top 100 companies in South Africa and the Ernst & Young Best Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2002; and the World Economic Forum Global Leader of Tomorrow in 1999.
Patrice Motsepe is an Alumnus of University of Swaziland where he earned his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, and he holds a Bachelor of law (LLB) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, with specialization in mining and business law. He was decorated with Doctorate of Commerce Honoris Causa, from University of Witwatersrand and University of Stellenbosch; Doctor of Management and Commerce Honoris Causa by Fort Hare and Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa by Eswatini (formerly University of Swaziland).
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