Gavin Hudson has just celebrated his first anniversary as CEO of disaster-ridden sugar company Tongaat Hulett. But as early as his second week in charge, he discovered the tale he’d been told by headhunters of a company with a few blemishes was only half the story. That was his Marelize moment: when his metaphorical bicycle trundled headlong into the metaphorical rugby post.

Hudson called his executives together and asked them just how Tongaat was supposed to hit its R1.5bn profit target. "How do you get to these numbers?" he asked. For one thing, he didn’t understand how the debt kept escalating, or where the cash was coming from...

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