Tsogo Sun’s Marcel von Aulock is leaving the gaming and leisure group after 20 years.
Von Aulock said he had achieved various goals in the business and he needed a break before starting another career.
Speculation is, however, that he has suddenly resigned because of differences with Tsogo’s parent company, Hosken Consolidated Investments, over an acquisition.
Tsogo, which is worth about R25.7bn, is in talks to buy the gaming machine and bingo hall businesses from Niveus Investments for R2.1bn. Hosken is the majority owner of Tsogo and of Niveus. Tsogo’s management would want the deal to favour Tsogo shareholders.
Von Aulock dismissed the speculation, saying he was involved in various deals during his six years as CEO of Tsogo, including the recent takeover of Hospitality Property Fund and the acquisition and redevelopment of Gold Reef City. He had effectively worked with Tsogo for 20 years and wanted a new career path.
While doing his articles to become a chartered accountant, he audited Tsogo in 1997 and 1998. He became a member of the full-time staff in 1999 and has worked there since.
"I have had a great time at Tsogo and have achieved various career goals. Now I need to step away from the daily slog, however," Von Aulock said.
"I could have taken a month sabbatical, but I think when you do that, you don’t actually separate yourself. I need some time to turn off and to plan my next career move," he said.
Tsogo is Africa’s largest hotels and gaming group. Besides SA, it has interests in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. It also has exposure to the Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.
Von Aulock said he would leave at the end of June and be replaced by Tsogo’s Jacques Booysen, with whom he had worked extensively.
Equity analyst Damon Buss said Von Aulock stood out among SA’s executives.
"Marcel has been a very good CEO. Over the time he has been in charge, Tsogo Sun’s return on equity has improved from mid-teen level to more than 25% as a result of smart capital allocation decisions. His focus on building up the hotel business has paid off for Tsogo, given the slow-down in casino gaming spend over the past few years.
"The strict cost management philosophy he has embedded in the group has enabled Tsogo to protect their margins even with low single-digit gaming revenue growth," Buss said.
He said Booysen was "a very capable person to take over the CEO role, given that he now runs Tsogo’s gaming business, which contributes 70% of group revenue".
Tsogo’s three Gauteng casinos are expected to report revenue down by R200m in the year to March, following the opening of rival Sun International’s new Time Square casino in Menlyn near Pretoria.