Spectacular journey is far from over
VIEW FROM THE TOP: Super Group’s Peter Mountford
After transforming the fortunes of a company on the verge of bankruptcy, Mountford’s foot is still hard on the accelerator pedal as he searches for international acquisitions
Super Group CEO Peter Mountford is off to Monte Carlo in June 2017, but there will be no idyllic French Riviera summer holiday waiting for him.
The managerial superstar will represent Southern Africa at the 31st EY world entrepreneur of the year award.
Mountford has already bagged the EY Southern Africa world entrepreneur award for 2016 in the master category. If he walks off with the world award he will become the second head of an SA company to have done so, after the late Bill Lynch, who won in 2006.
"EY approached me," says Mountford.
They had good reason to do so. As Super Group CEO since July 2009, Mountford has taken the company from the verge of bankruptcy and built it into a supply chain, fleet rental and motor dealership powerhouse earning 60% of its operating profit internationally.
When Mountford inherited Super Group from its founder and former CEO, Larry Lipschitz, he was lumped with a giant can of worms. Lipschitz had diversified into Chinese truck assembly, hardware (Mica), insurance (Emerald) and auto spares (AutoZone) and his neglect of the core businesses had left Super Group hopelessly overborrowed and running up crippling losses.
"Super Group made a loss of R1.35bn in its year to June 2009," says Mountford. Debt stood at almost three times the shareholders’ rapidly falling funds.
It demanded urgent action by Mountford. His first move was to prop up the balance sheet through a R1.2bn rights issue, executed at a giveaway price of 45c/share. Super Group now trades at R40/share, while its market cap has rocketed from R350m to over R14bn.
Mountford also acted swiftly to dispose of noncore assets and attack costs. "Generating cash was the prime objective," he says.
Three years into his tenure, Super Group had zero debt. It was time for Mountford to move off the back foot and apply what he had learnt from Lynch, the man he praises as one of his mentors.
First was the acquisition of UK motor dealership Allen Ford, bought in late 2014, followed in July 2015 by a 75% stake in German specialist logistics firm IN tIME Express Logistik. With Mountford’s foot still hard on the acquisition pedal, Super Group launched its assault on the UK fleet management and hiring market in the second half of 2016, acquiring Fleet Hire and Motiva.
Mountford has learnt well from Lynch. He had the opportunity to do so after being persuaded by Lynch in 2001 to leave Super Group, where he was then CEO of logistics, and join Imperial.
Lynch was not the only business giant to influence Mountford. "Meyer Kahn was also a mentor," says Mountford of the former SA Breweries (SAB) MD and executive chairman.
Mountford spent many years with SAB, as group financial manager of Afcol, as Lion Match’s FD and as CEO of ancillary beverages.
It adds up to an illustrious career but one that has far from run its course. Mountford leaves no doubt his sights are set on expanding aggressively in the UK and Europe. "The markets hold big opportunities," he says.