Christo Wiese. File photo: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Christo Wiese. File photo: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

Christo Wiese, the long-time chair of Shoprite, has indicated he will resign before the next Shoprite annual general meeting (AGM), in an announcement made by the listed retailer on Friday.

Shoprite has started a search for his replacement, who will be independent, it said. Wiese has been chair since 1979.

The move comes after he got only 28% of ordinary shareholder votes to back him as chair and a last-minute attempt to vote an independent shareholder on to the board to counterbalance Wiese’s power.

The Shoprite statement read: “As was noted at the group’s recent AGM, succession planning is a key priority for the board. This is echoed by the current group chair, Dr Wiese, who has indicated his intention to retire as chair by the next AGM.”

It also stated that the next chair will be independent. The “process to find a suitable independent successor has commenced”.

The shake-up in Shoprite’s leadership started when only days before the AGM, Shane Watkins, chief investment officer of All Weather Capital, which holds 3.2-million Shoprite shares, nominated Jan le Roux, a former CEO of Pepkor, as a nonexecutive director of Shoprite.

Watkins previously told Business Day this was to counter Wiese’s dominance: “We are concerned that the majority of recent corporate implosions have been facilitated by one very dominant individual director. Jan [Le Roux] is a significant minority shareholder and his interests are aligned with other minority shareholders,” Watkins said.

Watkins was an outspoken critic of Shoprite’s proposal earlier to pay Wiese R3.4bn for the repurchase and cancellation of all of his deferred shares.

Le Roux did not win a place without Wiese’s backing, as the chair holds 42% of voting rights due to his share ownership.

After the unusual attempt to counter Wiese’s control of the board, independent director Shirley Zinn resigned unexpectedly.

On Friday, Shoprite announced that it had appointed entrepreneur and investor Anna Mokgokong in Zinn’s place as independent director and as head of the remuneration committee.

childk@businesslive.co.za