Shoprite last month announced a deal that would loosen chairman Christo Wiese’s grip on the retailer. By buying back a class of shares that gave Wiese the lion’s share of the voting rights, Shoprite will pay the billionaire about R3.5bn in ordinary shares. Wiese has held control of Shoprite since the early 1980s. And it has been a long road to grow the retailer into SA’s largest. Steady expansion was the secret, but with a few game-changing deals in between. One such transaction was the R1 deal of 1997. TJ Strydom explains in this extract from his unauthorised biography ofWiese titled Christo Wiese: Risk & Riches In the photograph the two are beaming. At opposite sides [Christo] Wiese and [James Wellwood (Whitey)] Basson are holding a board with the words "OK. We are there for you!" That was after the transaction had taken place. But it was a close call: OK Bazaars was on the brink of vanishing. All the same, the two friends managed late in 1997 to buy the retail group, founded in ...

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