With over a $3.1 billion net worth under his belt, Patrice Motsepe is one of most wealthiest individuals in South Africa and the African continent as a whole.
He’s without doubt, a definition of a versatile businessman who’s diversified his business interests in many fields of endeavor, but his major source of income comes from the mining sector, through his African Rainbow Minerals(ARM) company.
He launched the ARM in 1997. He began by focusing on the gold metal alone, but as the years went by, the company expanded its interests to base metals, iron ore, manganese ore and alloys, platinum group metals, copper, nickel and coal.
Beyond the mining sector, Motsepe is involved in other companies too, both locally and abroad, some of which have him on their board as an executive member.
Patrice’s father was school teacher and a small businessman who owned a spaza shop that provided for mineworkers at a closeby platinum mine.
A young Patrice would sometimes operate the shop after school and during weekends. He learned the basic principles of business during the time he ran the spaza shop, this marked his first exposure to the mining world.
Now the 100 thousand trillion rand question, “how did Motsepe go from being a spaza boy to having his pockets overflow with Randelas??”
Well its not an ABC answer, but to fully understand Motsepe’s rags-to-riches story, let’s take it back to Ga Rankuwa, North of Pretoria, the place where Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe spent most of his childhood.
Patrice was born on the 28th of January 1962, to Augustine and Key Motsepe. His father was a schoolteacher by profession, he was also a small businessman, who owned a spaza shop, mostly frequented by mineworkers at a closeby platinum mine.
Contrary to what most people believe, Motsepe wasn’t born rich or had any wealthy relatives. Like many black South Africans during apartheid, his parents were ordinary struggling people.
Despite the difficult upbringing, Motsepe still had high hopes that things would turn out for the better in the future and didn’t let his poor background limit him in any way or form, into trying really hard to make a better life for himself and those close by him.
Motsepe went to a Roman Catholic boarding school in the Eastern Cape.
After matriculating, he proceeded to obtain a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Swaziland, which was subsequently followed by a law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.
After getting his LLB, Patrice got a job offer from Bowman Gilfillan law firm in 1988.
The firm was predominantly ran by whites but after noticing Motsepe’s drive, commitment and excellence in his job activities, his bosses took a unique interest in him.
For over a year(1991 – 1992) Motsepe was a visiting attorney to McGuire Woods Law in the US, under the American Bar Association program.
During his stay, he met several mining magnates and organizations. He studied their daily operations, which sprouted a zeal and attraction in him for the business.
This new exposure caused Motsepe to start studying the mining business in every way he could. He read all kinds of books & articles and studied anything he could find on mining, just so he could have a complete understanding and the technical know-how of how the business operated.
When he came back to SA, he continued working for the firm and once again, his hard work & commitment earned him a big win, as he was chosen to be the first black partner in Bowman Gilfillan in early 1994.
Well obviously this wasn’t an easy feat for Motsepe make partner at such a young age of 32, because Bowman Gilfillan has always been one of the most prestigious law firm in the country, so it probably took something out of the ordinary.
LEAP INTO BUSINESS
Shortly after the ANC won and Mandela became President of the country, the government made favorable policies to support black businesses.
Motsepe left Bowman Gilfillan and took full advantage of the opportunity.
He launched Future Mining in 1994, a company which provided necessary chores in mining, which includes the removing of gold dust inside mine shafts for the Vaal Reefs Gold.
Around 1997, gold prices plummeted heavily in the international market, this opened a window of opportunity and promted Motsepe to take a leap in the mining business with full force.
During that time, AngloGold, put an $8.2 million price tag on their low-performing small mine shafts, in order to redirect all their focus on the larger and highly performing mines.
Once the gold mines were up for sale, Motsepe launched African Rainbow Minerals, through which he would later buy the mines.
At this point, Motsepe was 3 years in the mining business and realized that success in mining, didn’t necessarily depend on the size alone but rather, any mine that managed their finances and operations well.
Although he had been saving for years, the $8.2 million price tag was just above his pay grade.
Faced with this dilemma, Motsepe ran to the banks for financial backup but they rejected him for two reasons: the mines he was trying to buy weren’t profitable and also, no other black has owned a mine before.
Bobby Godsell, the CEO of Anglo’s Gold & Uranium division, came to Motsepe’s rescue with the financial muscle.
Bobby knew of Motsepe during the time he was providing services with Future Mining, they got to know each other and during that time, he observed Motsepe’s burning desire to venture into the mining business.
Bobby handed the mining shafts to Motsepe, under terms which allowed him to repay the $8.2 million debt out of the future earnings of the company.
Like all ventures, it wasn’t easy at first because the gold markets kept on plummeting and at some point, Motsepe was forced to lay off some of his stuff to keep the mines afloat.
After 12 months of being in charge, he shocked the business world by making the mines profitable
And in just 3 years, he turned the ship around by paying off his debts and made the necessary foundations to make ARM become one of the largest mining companies in the world.
The rest as they say, is history……Motsepe went on to launch other businesses, diversify his investments, win multiple awards, travel the world and serve on the boards of many companies.