Investor, philanthropist Allan Gray dies of natural causes
Companies / 12 November 2019, 07:13am / Edward West
CAPE TOWN – Publicity-shy investment guru Allan Gray has died at the age of 81.
Gray was the billionaire philanthropist and founder of Africa’s biggest privately owned asset manager, Allan Gray Investment Management, Allan Gray Australia and the international Orbis Group.
The investment group yesterday said that Gray passed away in Bermuda on Sunday due to natural causes.
“We are mourning the passing of a man who made an immeasurable impact on many lives as an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist,” the asset manager said in a statement. “He has earned his rest.”
Gray, known to have been fiercely private about his own financial affairs, was living in Hamilton Bermuda. He leaves behind his wife, Gill, and son, William.
“Allan leaves behind a lasting legacy. He founded Allan Gray and Orbis with the singular purpose of creating long-term wealth for clients and the firms continue to be guided by Allan’s strong values and his philosophy and approach to investing,” the group said.
“He saw philanthropy as a natural extension of the impact that the investment business aims to make in people’s lives, spending considerable focus and energy later in his career on philanthropic endeavours,” the firm said.
Allan Gray Investment Management focuses on generating long-term wealth for investors. It manages more than $35billion (R520bn) in client assets in a range of equity, fixed interest and multi-asset mandates across Africa.
It is a leading investor on the JSE, and has been a multiple award winner of the Raging Bull Awards, which rewards the performance of asset managers acting on behalf of their clients. Last year, for instance, the firm was named South African Manager of the Year.
Gray established the Allan Gray Foundation in 2007 with a $130 million endowment to fund bursaries and scholarships for talented South African high school students, according to Wikipedia, which was the biggest charity donation in South Africa’s history.
He stepped down as chairperson of Allan Gray Investment Management in 2015 at the age of 78 to focus on the foundation.
Now known as the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the organisation fosters entrepreneurship by providing entrepreneurially-minded young South Africans with scholarships at school level, funding for university education, and support for their small businesses. The foundation also funds the centre for Values-based Leadership at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, and the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes University.
In 2016, Gray donated his entire stake in his company to the Allan and Gill Gray Charitable Trust, so that dividends from his share in both the South African company and the Orbis Group could be exclusively used for philanthropic purposes.
A meticulous planner, he spent a number of years gradually handing over his responsibilities to others, confident that the firms were in excellent hands.
He handed over leadership of Orbis to William Gray in 2000, resigned from the Allan Gray board in 2010 and stepped away from his remaining investment responsibilities at Orbis in 2012, before retiring officially from Orbis in 2016.
Gray was born in East London in 1938. After completing high school, he studied accounting at Rhodes University and earned an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1965.
He worked for Fidelity Management and Research in Boston for eight years. He returned to South Africa in 1973 to found what would become Allan Gray Investment Management in Cape Town.
The company initially focused on investment counselling. He set up Orbis Investment Management in 1989 in London to focus on investing in international markets. Two years later, the company relocated its headquarters to Bermuda.
By 2015, Orbis was managing more than $30bn in assets. Similarly, Orbis’s sister company, Allan Gray Investment Management, grew to be South Africa’s largest privately held investment management firm.