Whitey Basson, arguably SA’s greatest retailer, has announced that at the end of this year he would retire from the helm at Shoprite, which he built into an African grocery colossus. He says he is weary and ‘gatvol’. The news was somehow not a surprise and it seems clear he is stepping aside in the face of longtime associate Christo Wiese’s determination to merge Shoprite with furniture retailer Steinhoff. What it means: To Wiese, it would be natural for Steinhoff to take over Shoprite. But will Shoprite’s remaining 84% of shareholders agree? It was one of those era-defining announcements that you see coming a mile away but which still come as a shock when the words are finally uttered. On Monday, the 70-year-old Whitey Basson produced just such a reaction when investors and journalists at Shoprite’s AGM in Parow were told he would be retiring as CEO just after Christmas. It seemed a bit unreal. For decades, Basson has seemed like the living, beating heart of SA retail, his virtuoso...

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