Jannie Mouton. picture: HETTY ZANTMAN
Jannie Mouton. picture: HETTY ZANTMAN

Wealth creator extraordinaire Jannie Mouton, the founder and chairman of Stellenbosch-based powerhouse PSG Group, shocked the investment community on Wednesday by disclosing he had been diagnosed with an early form of dementia.

In an open letter to PSG shareholders and staff, Mouton gave a starkly personal account of his condition.

“I have recently been diagnosed with an early form of dementia. The implication of this is that my short-term memory does not always function as it should, the result being that I sometimes forget people’s names, repeat myself or may appear somewhat disorientated.

“This does not happen every day, but I cannot ignore it.”

Mouton — a former stockbroker — has been a powerful force on the local investment landscape for the past two decades. He brought PSG to the JSE in 1995 by acquiring control of small recruitment firm PAG at a bargain basement price of 36c.

After quickly finding traction with several opportunistic investments (including selling PSG at a substantial profit) Mouton took smart longer-term bets to build PSG into a formidable investment house with a market capitalisation that now stands at more than R52bn.

At PSG’s annual general meeting in 2017, Mouton indicated that R10,000 invested in PSG in 1995 would be worth more than R500m today if all dividends had been reinvested and the various corporate actions followed.

The PSG empire now spans banking (Capitec), private education (Curro and Stadio), agribusiness (Pioneer Foods, Capespan and Kaap Agri) and financial services (PSG Konsult), as well as power management and water desalination (Energy Partners) and retirement lifestyle villages (Evergreen).

Despite his illness, Mouton will not step down as chairman of PSG yet. Mouton said that after consultation with senior colleagues, there was consensus that he still had a contribution to make to the group. He said PSG Group “has an outstanding team that looks after the investment portfolio and other business matters”.

Keith McLachlan, a portfolio manager at Alpha Wealth, said Mouton’s letter was “an incredibly dignified way to signal the end of an incredible legacy. The letter was open, transparent, honest and heartfelt.”

Anthony Clark, an analyst at Vunani Securities, said the honourable and transparent notice to shareholders characterised Mouton’s corporate career. He said Mouton’s guiding principles had seen PSG make highly successful investments such as Capitec and Curro.

PSG CEO Piet Mouton said his father was taking the setback very well. “It was detected very early and he is on medication.

“It is a scary illness, but for the moment he is doing well and at the moment most days are good days. We are hoping we can keep him involved in the group for a long time still.”

hasenfussm@fm.co.za