Ann Crotty Writer-at-large
Wendy Luhabe. Picture: SOWETAN
Wendy Luhabe. Picture: SOWETAN

The appointment of Wendy Luhabe to the Steinhoff Africa Retail (Star) board is the latest of several board changes announced by the board as it attempts to battle with the fallout from the controversy surrounding its controlling shareholder, Steinhoff International.

Luhabe, a major force in the corporate community during the mid-nineties and early noughties, has adopted a lower profile in recent years. Her appointment to the Star board is effective from January 1 2019.

Luhabe joins a board dominated by white Afrikaans men.

The three notable exceptions are chairman Jayendra Naidoo, Heather Sonn and Fagmeedah Petersen-Cook.

Naidoo is founder of the Lancaster group, which secured funding from the Public Investment Corporation to take a 9% stake in Star and become its black economic empowerment shareholder.

Sonn, who was appointed to the Star board as an independent nonexecutive director in August 2017, is the chairwoman of Steinhoff.

Luhabe’s directorships include African Leadership University, the Abraaj Group and the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development. Her high-profile previous positions include chairmanship of Vodacom, for six years to 2006 and chairmanship of the IDC for 10 years to 2009.

Wendy has an impressive track record as a business leader and has made a huge impact in the business community

Luhabe was a founder director of Wiphold, one of the early BEE groups, which focused on creating business opportunities for women.

Commenting on the appointment, Naidoo said: "Wendy has an impressive track record as a business leader and has made a huge impact in the business community in SA.

"We are thrilled that she has joined Star and look forward to her contribution."

Luhabe’s appointment is the 10th Star board change announced since the Steinhoff collapse was triggered by reference to "accounting irregularities" in December 2017.

Four directors, including Vusi Khanyile, have resigned, with Markus Jooste the first to depart. Luhabe is the sixth new appointment since December 2017.

Pieter Erasmus, who was a former CEO of Pepkor, is due to rejoin the board in October by which time shareholders may have approved the proposed renaming of the company to Pepkor. The group’s share price has been hit by its association with Steinhoff and concerns about the impact of third-party guarantees, legal claims and off-balance sheet entities linked to Steinhoff.

crottya@businesslive.co.za