Anglo American, the corporation that helped turn South Africa into the world’s gem and gold supplier, may finally be ready to quit the country it helped shape for about a century.
Anglo, as it is mostly called, was once a cradle-to-grave employer that owned not just vast diamond, gold and other mineral assets, but a cross-section of South African industries spanning most sectors. At its height in the 1980s, Anglo owned food producers, packaging companies and others.
So pervasive was its influence that in the media sector, it owned shares in rival newspaper firms, the paper mills they depended on and even the very forests these fed on. It was, however, minerals that ran through Anglo’s corporate culture, and which were its main focus.
“It was the ‘golden handcuffs’ – the company pension – that kept me there,” says Mauritz de Villiers, a retired geologist who began working at Anglo in the 1970s and held the job until he retired about four decades later. “I stuck it out my entire career and never worked anywhere else, for that pension. A lifetime’s work for a few years of fishing.”
Tens of thousands shared Mr de Villiers’ job-for-life journey with Anglo. The company was founded in a smoke-filled drawing room in 1917 by, among others, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer. Today Oppenheimers’ descendants are one of Africa’s wealthiest families.
“South Africa’s economic development basically began with gold and diamonds, and Anglo was a major part of that,” Dave Mohr, the chief strategist at Cape Town-based Old Mutual Multi-Managers, told Bloomberg.
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