Magazine article Black Enterprise

Sweet Success in South Africa: A Wine Merchant Finds Opportunity in Johannesburg

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Sweet Success in South Africa: A Wine Merchant Finds Opportunity in Johannesburg

Article excerpt


ALL EYES WILL BE ON SOUTH AFRICA WHEN THE COUNTRY hosts soccer's World Cup in 2010. But aside from the sports fanfare, fare, the capital city, Johannesburg, which will host the opening ceremony and final match, is getting significant attention because of its growth in the business sector.

Mining no longer drives the economic growth in this city of 3.9 million. Today, finance and manufacturing, which contribute 34% to the national economy and approximately 9% to the gross domestic product fuel the province of Gauteng (which includes Johansesburg) more than any other district. Information and communications technology and construction also represent growth sectors.

Son Gault, 67, has witnessed this dramatic change. The Chicago native moved to Johannesburg in December 1996 from New York where he served as a managing director of JPMorgan, heading an infrastructure group in the public finance department. After anti-apartheid sanctions were lifted, the firm opened a South Africa office and installed Gault as managing director. The four-employee office grew to 70 before the 2000 merger with Chase Manhattan Corp. "It was a wonderful opportunity," says Gault, who appeared on BLACK ENTERPRISE'S 2002 list of Top 50 African Americans ON Wall Street. "Several of the global banking institutions have opened offices here." He cites Citibank, HSBC, and Merril Lynch South African. Bank of China, Barcklays, Deutsche, and State Bank of India have also set up shop there.

Moreover, 80% of approximately 600 American companies have a presence in South Africa. A little more than half of those, including Microsoft, Coca-Cola Co., Ford, DuPont, UPS, Intel, and Colgate-Palmolive, are among America's largest companies.

Gault transitioned--a word he prefers to retired--from JPMorgan Chase in early 2006. but he and his wife, noted journalist and author Charlayne Hunter-Gault, remain permanent residents of South Africa. (They own a place in New York City and spend summers at their Martha's Vineyard home.) Gault is now a chairman of a private investment company, an adviser for an international management consulting firm, and a producer-exporter of South African wine. His RTG Trading Co. portfolio consisted of Passages, a wine venture he started with his wife; Epicurean, which Gault launched with three South African business partners; and wines from the othe vineyards. "The thing about South Africa that is so attractive is that the vista is full of opportunities," Gault says. "If you have an idea, pick one. If you have enough energy, enthusiasm, and financial wherewithal, pursue it."

He points out that Johannesburg, like many large cities, has social and economic problems. "Power outages, inadequate public education facilities, a need to curb crime, unemployment, inadequate public health facilities, the full menu of problems that cities have, you'll find them here. …

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