Liberty Life founder Sir Donald Gordon dies

A South African captain of industry has passed: Liberty Holdings's founder Sir Donald Gordon. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

A South African captain of industry has passed: Liberty Holdings's founder Sir Donald Gordon. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 22, 2019


JOHANNESBURG - A South African captain of industry has passed: Liberty Life (now known as Liberty Holdings's) founder Sir Donald Gordon.

Gordon is known for his immense contribution to both the arts and business.

Liberty Holdings board said in a statement of Friday, "We are saddened by the passing of Sir Donald Gordon on 21 November 2019. We extend our condolences to his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time."

The board said  Gordon was a visionary leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist who had made an immense contribution to the industry and country.

"In 1957 he founded Liberty on principles born of a deep belief in humanity and the desire to help people to leave a legacy for their families. Liberty will continue to honour his vision by pursuing our purpose of improving people's lives by making their financial freedom possible, " the board said.

According to Libery's website, Gordon watched his father work hard all his life, yet reap little financial reward for his efforts.

"This struggle ignited in him the overwhelming belief that all people should have the opportunity to grow their wealth and leave a proud legacy for their family. This belief is captured in our name and our flame, taken from the Statue of Liberty and imbued with the same meaning of freedom and opportunity," it said.

Liberty said nearly 60 years later, and with a presence in 18 African countries, it had grown from being a South African life insurer to a pan-African financial services company, offering asset management, investment, insurance and health products to 3.2 million people across Africa.

So how did Gordon's life journey begin ?

Gordon held both UK and South African citizenship.

According to Wikipedia Gordon was educated at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg before doing his articles to be a Chartered Accountant at the firm, Kessel Feinstein, now Grant Thornton.

He founded the Liberty Life Association of Africa in 1957 out of which he formed Transatlantic Insurance Holdings plc, now Liberty International, in 1980.

He was behind the development of Sandton City, one of the most successful shopping centres in the world.

Gordon was also a director of the Guardian Royal Exchange Group for 24 years and chaired their South African subsidiary, Guardian National Insurance Company.

The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg, South Africa was established in January 2000 following a substantial contribution by Gordon and a major investment by the University of Pretoria.

In 2004, Gordon gave the Royal Opera House and Wales Millennium Centre a collective donation of £20 million payable over five years. This is believed to be one of the largest single private donation ever made to the arts in the UK.Gordon has had the Grand Tier at the Royal Opera House as well as the main auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre named after him.

At the 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in London, Gordon received the Entrepreneur of the Year Special Award for Lifetime Achievement. He received an honorary doctorate of economic science from the University of the Witwatersrand and an honorary doctorate in commerce from the University of Pretoria. In 1968 he was named 'Business Man of the Year' by the South African Sunday Times. In 1999 he was named as 'The Achiever of the Century in South African Financial Services' by South African Financial Mail, according to Wikipedia.

In 2005 Gordon was awarded a knighthood in the UK for his service to the arts and business by Queen Elizabeth II.


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