BIOGRAPHY

Markus Jooste Biography 2024: Age, Net Worth, Family, Height, Education, Personal Life, Wife, Career, Caused Of Death

Markus Jooste, born on January 22, 1961, and passing away on March 21, 2024, was a prominent South African entrepreneur who served as the CEO of Steinhoff International.

Known for his passion for horse breeding, Jooste was recognized as one of Africa’s wealthiest individuals in 2016, with an estimated net worth of $400 million.

Teaming up with Christo Wiese in 2014, they initiated an ambitious global expansion plan.

Read Normal: Kgomotso Christopher Biography 2024: Age, Relationship, Net Worth, Family, Education, Personal Life, Movie Career, Awards and Nomination

By March 2016, the conglomerate’s stock price had surged to its highest point, validating their approach of funding dividends and acquisitions through stock sales.

Markus Jooste
Born
Markus Johannes Jooste

22 January 1961

Died 21 March 2024 (aged 63)

Hermanus, South Africa
Education Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies)
Alma mater Stellenbosch UniversityUniversity of Cape Town
Occupation Businessman
Title CEO, Steinhoff International
Spouse Ingrid Jooste
Children 3

After a disagreement with business partner Andreas Seifert, European regulators, journalists, and law enforcement were notified about the conglomerate’s exaggerated profit and asset values, as well as undisclosed transactions with third parties.

As a result, Deloitte LLP demanded an internal investigation before approving the financials for 2017.

Despite Jooste’s resistance and inability to persuade the Steinhoff board to appoint new auditors, he eventually submitted his resignation on December 5, 2017.

Nine days later, Wiese also resigned following a call from a major investor, PIC, for independent oversight.

Jooste’s abrupt departure triggered a lengthy and complex controversy surrounding Steinhoff’s accounting practices in its Central European business, dating back to 2014.

The ensuing uncertainty caused a rapid decline in Steinhoff’s market value, with approximately €10 billion (R160 billion) being wiped off within a few days. The losses continued to mount as the situation unfolded.

Eventually, the company succumbed to insurmountable debts and claims, leading to its demise in 2023.

The subsequent PwC investigation, which spanned either 3,000 or 7,000 pages, directly implicated Jooste and his CFO Ben la Grange in widespread fraudulent transactions and accounting irregularities.

As a result, the company, headquartered in Stellenbosch, filed a lawsuit at the high court in Cape Town seeking to recover R870 million from Jooste and R272 million from Ben la Grange, including their salaries and bonuses.

The investigation, aided by the Panama Papers, also revealed allegations of insider trading dating back to Steinhoff’s listing in 1998, with top executives involved in questionable deals.

Leveraging Steinhoff shares, Jooste and his associates allegedly acquired stakes in various acquisitions, diluting shareholder value.

Despite the lack of progress by South Africa’s Hawks investigative unit and the NPA’s limited capabilities to address such crimes, criminal charges were not brought forward.

The detrimental impact on pension funds led some lawmakers to express their disappointment over the lack of prosecution and demand immediate arrests of those responsible.

In the meantime, the JSE found Jooste guilty of two violations of listing requirements and imposed a maximum fine of R15 million on him personally.

Additionally, he has been barred from serving as a director of a listed company for 20 years.

Early Life

Markus Jooste, born on 22 January 1961, had a father who worked as a postal worker and had a passion for horse race betting, which he passed on to his son.

Jooste completed his matriculation at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool in 1978. Prior to the 2017 crisis in his business empire, he generously donated R10 million to the school’s old-boys trust.

This donation is currently being safeguarded for potential future claims.

Jooste earned a BAcc degree from Stellenbosch University in 1982, and later pursued an honours degree at the University of Cape Town while fulfilling his CA(SA) articles.

During this time, one of his audit clients was a company owned by Christo Wiese.

Career

After completing his training as a chartered accountant in his twenties, he was appointed as the financial director of a publicly listed company.

At the age of 27, he took on the role of financial director at GommaGomma, where he crossed paths with German entrepreneur Claas Daun, who provided him with business coaching.

In 1998, Jooste successfully convinced Daun to merge his business with Bruno Steinhoff’s in Europe and list Steinhoff International on the JSE.

Both Jooste and Daun served as non-executive directors of Steinhoff International starting from 1988, and Jooste eventually became the CEO in 2000.

As CEO, he transformed the company from a small furniture manufacturer to a major player in the furniture industry through various acquisitions.

Piet Ferreira, a former investment banker who joined Steinhoff in 2002, played a crucial role in structuring the company’s public offerings and complex acquisitions during his 15-year tenure.

One notable acquisition was Conforama in 2011, which was purchased for €1,207 million and significantly contributed to the company’s revenue and growth.

From 2014 to 2017, Steinhoff made further acquisitions in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, including Mattress Firm for $2.4 billion and Poundland for £597 million during challenging retail conditions.

The premium paid for Mattress Firm, although partially funded with Steinhoff shares, attracted scrutiny from independent analysts.

Initially, the financial press attributed Jooste’s empire’s growth to luck or favorable timing, but dissenting voices quieted down as Steinhoff achieved a remarkable 36% growth in its 2014/2015 reporting year.

In March 2015, Steinhoff acquired Pepkor from Wiese and his Brait holding company for R63 billion (then €4.8 billion), resulting in a high p-e ratio of 37.

Following an unsuccessful merger with Shoprite in December 2016, Jooste and Wiese secured new funding in 2017 to separate Pepkor’s South African division, a decision met with skepticism as it was viewed as a strategy to settle Steinhoff’s South African debt.

The Pepkor purchase was made without a cautionary announcement, prompting concerns at the FSB regarding potential insider trading prior to the transaction.

The split led to a 71% stake in the new entity, Star, which oversaw over 5,000 South African stores, making it the largest retailer in the country.

In October 2015, Jooste hosted a luxurious trip to the Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham Stadium for some Stellenbosch colleagues, friends, and associates, with an estimated cost of R84 million to Steinhoff shareholders.

On 4 December 2015, Steinhoff revealed that authorities in Oldenburg had conducted a raid on its European headquarters in Westerstede, Germany on 26 November to scrutinize its balance sheet treatment of transfers to subsidiaries or third parties.

Subsequently, on 7 December, Steinhoff International Holdings relocated its primary listing from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, with Jooste explaining that the majority of the company’s stores, customers, and revenues were in Europe.

Despite labeling it as a significant milestone for Steinhoff, Jooste opted not to attend the event in Frankfurt, citing “neck pain” as a reason for being unable to travel from Cape Town.

Steinhoff’s stock price reached its peak at R90 per share in 2016, positioning it as the 15th largest company on the Johannesburg exchange.

At that time, the conglomerate owned more than 40 retail outlets, employed over 130,000 individuals across five continents, and had established itself as the second-largest home goods retailer in Europe, following Ikea.

By 2017, the company’s financial situation began to deteriorate as its operating profit margin declined and its net debt rose, despite the fact that its stock was held by around 340 investment funds in South Africa due to its low volatility.

Steinhoff’s March 2017 financial statements indicated €3.1 billion in cash reserves and exposure to creditors amounting to €18 billion ($21 billion).

Despite a company tax rate of 28% in South Africa, Steinhoff managed to keep its effective tax rate between 8% and 12% for several years, which raised concerns following the Steinhoff fallout.

In August 2017, Manager Magazin disclosed that Jooste was among the managers under investigation in Germany, with prosecutors suspecting that subsidiaries may have reported inflated revenues in the hundred million Euro range.

Handelsblatt reported in November 2017 that investors had grown increasingly cautious of the complex and opaque company structure established by Jooste.

Financial Mail journalists, with the assistance of the Panama Papers, alleged that Jooste had undisclosed interests in these subsidiaries prior to their integration into Steinhoff, and that they were acquired at prices above their actual value.

They suggested that George Alan Evans and Malcolm King may have orchestrated a network of front-running companies on behalf of Jooste.

On December 4, 2017, Steinhoff Holdings announced that it would be releasing unaudited annual statements.

The following day, Jooste stepped down from his role as CEO amidst accusations of fraud and corruption.

Shortly after, he also resigned from Phumelela Gaming & Leisure, Kenilworth Racing, and Mayfair Speculators.

Jooste attempted to resign as a chartered accountant, but SAICA refused and instead chose to suspend him pending disciplinary proceedings.

Jooste, who was earning a monthly salary of R2.5 million ($190,000) at the time, claimed that the Steinhoff board did not support his proposal to seek new auditors to approve the financial statements.

Steinhoff scandal

I am done with fighting, Ben, and when one’s life is made so bare it becomes f__ difficult to explain everything. Sorry for all the European entries that you don’t know anything about, were not involved in and don’t understand. At tomorrow’s audit meeting I’ll take you through each and explain why we did it that way. As you can imagine tax is the main consideration.

  E-mail by Jooste to his CFO Ben la Grange in December 2017 – Jooste would skip the audit meeting and resign, Revealed in a 2023 judgment of the Financial Services Tribunal

Manager Magazin reported in August 2017 that Jooste was being investigated by German authorities.

In response Steinhoff’s price slumped by 16% on the JSE, but recovered after the company denied the allegations.

This was followed by allegations of accounting impropriety made by Steinhoff’s former POCO subsidiary.

Steve Booysen also alerted the board to possible accounting irregularities after engagements with Deloitte.

Jooste’s December 2017 resignation as CEO of Steinhoff came as the company admitted to “accounting irregularities” within the group, and announced that it had approached PwC to conduct an investigation into these.

Chairwoman Heather Sonn revealed later that Steinhoff’s proprietary electronic records had been destroyed, complicating their investigation.

In a letter to staff on his resignation, Jooste apologized for “big mistakes” and that he had caused bad publicity for the company.

In an SMS sent on 6 December to former Steinhoff director Jo Grove, Jooste supposedly admitted that he had tried to cover up the impact of losses incurred by Steinhoff’s American assets.

Viceroy Research immediately tweeted a link to its 37-page report which detailed how Steinhoff had allegedly used off-balance-sheet entities to obfuscate losses and inflate earnings.

Investigations and litigation

PwC was tasked with an investigation into possible accounting irregularities or non-compliance with laws and regulations, and resumption of audited statements were subject to its outcome. German prosecutors confirmed in December 2017 that they were still investigating four current and former managers of a group (identified in the German press as Steinhoff), for accounting fraud.

Steinhoff announced in February 2018 that they had submitted a report on Jooste to the Hawks on suspicion of fraud, for investigation and potential prosecution.

Christo Wiese’s Titan Group instituted a claim of R59 billion ($4.8 billion) against the Steinhoff conglomerate to recover cash investments made in 2015 and 2016.

The prospects of this claim are however complicated by the fact that Wiese had been Steinhoff director since 2013.

Wiese had a 22% shareholding in Steinhoff, the European component of which appears to have been subject to margin loans with different banks.

In December 2017 Absa Bank and Investec Plc applied for the liquidation of Mayfair Speculators, when Mayfair’s Steinhoff shares failed to provide sufficient collateral for its overdraft facilities.

Absa, who was owed R350 million, expressed suspicion about R1.5 billion of assets that were transferred as a dividend in specie to Mayfair’s holding company in August 2017.

According to court documents, Mayfair owed Sanlam capital markets, Investec Plc and Absa more than R1.2 billion ($94 million) in total. Mayfair disclosed liabilities of R1 billion and assets worth R350 million.

The Western Cape High Court postponed the banks’ application, and the lenders subsequently agreed to grant Mayfair extension until the end of 2018 to facilitate a favourable disposal of its real estate and racehorses. Lenders held Mayfair accountable for R2.08 billion in total.

In June 2018, a Dutch shareholders association, VEB, filed for damages against Deloitte in Rotterdam, for their failure in vetting the accounts of retailer Steinhoff Int. NV.

The association planned to hold the directors, company, accountants, and potentially the banks that promoted Steinhoff’s listing, jointly responsible.

In August 2018 a claim of R740 million was instituted against Jooste and his former colleague Ben la Grange by Jaap du Toit and the trustees of Le Toit Trust. The claim relates to PSG shares which Du Toit swapped for Steinhoff shares in 2015.

When Jooste appeared before South African members of parliament in September 2018, he denied knowledge of any accounting irregularities on Steinhoff’s part.

He stated that Deloitte’s independence became compromised in Steinhoff’s dealings with Andreas Seifert, causing him (Jooste) to recommend appointment of new auditors, and the delay of the release date of audited results to the end of January 2018.

In Jooste’s view this would have warded off financial disaster in the group.

Jooste stated that from 2015 onwards, Andreas Seifert managed to convince German authorities to conduct various tax investigations into Steinhoff, besides attempting to manipulate public prosecutors, capital market regulators and the press to gain information on Steinhoff, whereby the outcome of ongoing civil litigations between Seifert and Steinhoff in three countries could be affected.

In August 2019, Jooste was represented by lawyer Callie Albertyn of DKVG and advocates Jeremy Muller and Matthew Blumberg at his first court trial when Steinhoff aimed to recoup salaries and bonusses paid to Jooste and La Grange.

On 4 March 2021, German prosecutors in Oldenburg revealed that Markus Jooste and three others had been secretly charged four months earlier with the first indictments from the German investigations.

Horse Trainer and Breeder

Jooste made his foray into the horse racing industry during the 1990s with a stable of 250 horses, eventually establishing himself as one of the top investors in Africa, and possibly globally.

Together with his son-in-law, Stefan Potgieter, Jooste managed their racing interests through Mayfair Speculators, a subsidiary of Mayfair Holdings established in 1987.

By 2004, Jooste had become a partner in Klawervlei Stud, alongside Johan du Plessis, Danie van der Merwe, and John Koster, adopting the four-leaf clover as their emblem.

Over the following years, additional notable investors joined the venture.

Jooste’s initial purchase, the stallion National Emblem, acquired for R100,000 in 1993, went on to achieve champion status.

Mayfair Speculators boasted ownership of Legal Eagle, South Africa’s premier racehorse with six Grade 1 victories, and Edict Of Nantes, a dual Grade 1 winner.

Both horses were sold in December 2017 for R3.2 million and R9.9 million, respectively. In 2016, The Conglomerate emerged as a surprise winner of the Durban July.

Engaging in various partnerships, Jooste was a frequent participant at racing sales, showcasing his purchasing power at events like Arqana’s premium sale in Deauville in 2014.

Notably, in 2015, he expanded his stable by acquiring 12 yearlings at Tattersalls Book One for a total of £4.3 million.

Mayfair’s presence in the market was further solidified in September 2017 when they procured 9 yearlings at the Kildare yearling sale in Ireland for €2.3 million.

Teaming up with MV Magnier, Jooste secured a filly at Tattersalls for £1.68 million in October 2017.

His success in the industry was recognized when he was named Equus SA’s racehorse owner of the year for the 10th consecutive year in 2017.

By December 2017, Mayfair Speculators had expanded to own 350 horses in training, 100 breeding mares, a substantial property portfolio, a 49% stake in Klawervlei horse-breeding farm in Bonnievale, and Steinhoff shares utilized as collateral.

Additionally, the company held a shareholder position in Cape Thoroughbred Sales (CTS), where Jooste served as a director.

Personal life

Jooste was married to Ingrid, and they had a son and two daughters.

He lived in Stellenbosch.

Death

Jooste died by suicide on 21 March 2024 near his home in Hermanus. The suicide occured a day before he was to hand himself over to law enforcement. 

Net Worth

According to Forbes Jooste fortune is worth more than $400 million in the 2023.


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