Independent Newspapers was back in local hands on Wednesday - but new owner Iqbal Survé was not celebrating.
The Sekunjalo Investment Holdings CEO said the eight-month process of buying the company (which owns IOL) had left him “incredibly disappointed” after what he called “highly personal attacks” against both himself and his company.
This after a series of articles by opposition media questioning the funding of what is now Sekunjalo Independent Media and implying that Survé’s political links would make the group a government mouthpiece.
“They defamed me. They defamed my company. And I was subjected to the most incredible vitriol.”
Surve insisted that his political ties were “completely irrelevant” to owning a newspaper company.
“I’m never going to apologise for my role in the Struggle,” he said. “If that makes me a political person, so be it. But we fought for democracy, so that we could have a voice in this country.”
Survé is the latest in a string of global businesspeople trying their hand at what many see as a dying industry.
Earlier this month, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. Then, the Boston Globe was sold to John Henry, owner of baseball team Boston Red Sox.
Locally, founder of investment company Blackstar, Andrew Bonamour, took over at Times Media.
But none seemed to be subjected to the same undermining criticism, said Survé.
“The argument that I don’t know how to run a newspaper is a naive one. We’re an investor. We invest, then choose a strategy team, and allow them to run the business.”
Survé says he still has “great enthusiasm” for the newspaper world.
“But am I celebrating? No. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”
He said he would spend the next hundred days getting to know the ins-and-outs of the business, “to really get a feeling of the organisation and the employees ambitions, hopes and aspirations”.
His vision? A pan-African media company, giving voice to the African story.
“Today is day zero.”