Laureation address – Johann Rupert
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws
Laureation by Professor Wilson Sibbett
School of Physics & Astronomy
Tuesday 13 July 2010
Chancellor, it is my privilege to present Johann Peter Rupert for the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.
For a young man who was ambitiously impatient in his determination to make a name for himself in the international business world, the pace of a university degree course was not to his liking and so the undergraduate student, Johann Rupert, abandoned his degree course in Law & Economics at Stellenbosch University and opted for a more direct “on-the-job” training route to merchant banking. This choice involved a move to New York where he learned his trade first with the Chase Manhattan Bank followed by a period in Corporate Finance with Lazard Frères & Company. He then returned to South Africa in 1979 to found the Rand Merchant Bank in which he served as the Managing Director and CEO. Interestingly, in the same year he conceived the idea and initiated the Small Business Development Corporation which to date has created more that 500,000 new jobs in South Africa.
Johann Rupert merged the Rand Merchant Bank with Rand Consolidated Investments in 1984 and a year later was appointed Executive Director of Rembrandt Group Ltd (a company that had been founded by his father) and for which he became Vice-Chairman in 1990. With characteristic entrepreneurship, he refocused the European interests of Rembrandt by establishing Richemont International, the luxury-goods company that included the Alfred Dunhill brand. In 2000, he also carried out a root-and-branch restructuring of Rembrandt Group Ltd and formed Remgro Ltd and VenFin Ltd. Now all of this would have been a full commitment for most businessmen but not this one – he was also appointed Non-Executive Director of Rothmans International and in the early 1990s formed the Vendome Luxury Group and in 1995 he led the privatization of Rothmans International and took on the Chairmanship of the Small Business Development Corporation, that I mentioned previously.
Johann Rupert’s business skills also extend to the wine industry. He took over the L’Ormarins wine estate from his late brother and has developed and expanded it in memory of his brother, Anthonij.
Just as in other facets of his business life, he has scaled the heights of success with this enterprise and has recently been voted the International Wine Entrepreneur of the Year at the Excellence in Wines & Spirits in Dusseldorf in Germany.
But, Johann Rupert is not only energetic and inspirational on the business front. He serves as a management trustee on the investment committee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and he invests much time, effort and skill in promoting both the creation and meaningful distribution of prosperity in South Africa. In this regard he has the abiding conviction that his native country should follow ambitious global strategies aimed more at gaining a wider recognition for its export of knowledge and ideas rather than just the sourcing and export of important raw materials. He is also a tireless advocate for the conservation and protection of environment and of heritage treasures.
But, let me now highlight some aspects of the other dimension of Dr Rupert’s life that relate directly to this Golf Graduation Ceremony today. As a former cricket player of distinction, he has maintained a deep interest in sport across its many and varied facets. This inspired him to assist in the establishment of the Sports Science Institute at the University of Cape Town and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation which is an international foundation that supports some 65 projects worldwide for less-advantaged children in particular. “Everyone at Laureus shares a common belief that sport is a universal language which has the power to speak to people across the globe, whatever their colour or creed.” He is also the Chairperson of the South African PGA Tour, is the Honorary President of the South African Golf Development Board and he was appointed recently as the Honorary Vice-President of the European PGA Tour. Dr Rupert is a regular visitor to St Andrews where he is a major funder of the Pilgrims Trust of St Andrews, the Auchterlonie Collection that is displayed in the British Golf Museum has been loaned by Alfred Dunhill and the Cowie Collection that is held in the University of St Andrews and first exhibited in 2002 has Alfred Dunhill support. Johann Rupert has been a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews since 1993 but, I appreciate that many here will associate him and his companies most closely with the sponsorship of the Alfred Dunhill Cup (1985-2000) and its successor event, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, that is now in its 10th year. The local community can thus acknowledge wide-ranging benefit arising from his enthusiastic involvement and generous support of many aspects of life in this town which over a period of 26 years have encompassed business, golf and student interests.
As might be expected, Johann Rupert is no stranger to honours and accolades in recognition both of his major achievements in business and of his broadly-based philanthropic activities. He received an Honorary Doctorate in Economics from Stellenbosch University in 2004 and an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce five years later from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and just last year he was awarded the much coveted and prestigious WITS Business School Management Excellence Award. I should of course also mention that Dr Rupert was appointed the Chancellor of Stellenbosch University in 2009 and so he is not unfamiliar with graduation events such as this!
Chancellor, in recognition of his many outstanding contributions to sport and, particularly in his most generous promotion and sponsorship of golf, I invite you to confer on Johann Peter Rupert the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.