EDITORIAL: Shoprite slap for Christo Wiese
The days of doing what’s best for you, irrespective of what it means for all shareholders, are long gone
Christo Wiese has had a tough few years. Once the country’s wealthiest man, widely lauded as having the Midas touch when it came to investing, Wiese took an almighty R59bn knock when the company he chaired, Steinhoff, collapsed amid an accounting scandal he hadn’t seen coming in 2017.
Until then he was often seen as an asset to any company’s board, by his mere presence.
Which is why this week’s AGM at retailer Shoprite, which he chairs, must have been so galling, as Wiese stared down a stiff challenge to his re-election.
In the end, he was re-elected by 61% of the vote — but this isn’t the whole story. Wiese himself owns high-voting "deferred shares" in Shoprite, which give him an outsized 42% of the vote. Strip out Wiese’s own vote, and just 28% of minority shareholders voted for him to return.
All Weather Capital’s Shane Watkins had led the charge, slamming Shoprite’s earlier plan (which failed) to pay Wiese R3.4bn for his deferred shares. Watkins said it was clear Wiese was conflicted.
After the vote, Watkins said: "Shareholders have sent a message to the board that they want better representation for minority shareholders." It was a chastening rebuke for Wiese, and a clear sign that the days of doing what’s best for you, irrespective of what it means for all shareholders, are long gone.