Danie van der Merwe. Photo: Bloomberg

CAPE TOWN – The decision taken by Steinhoff’s Danie van der Merwe’s to step down as the company’s acting chief executive was long overdue, said James-Brent Styan, author of the bestselling book Steinhoff: Inside SA’s Biggest Corporate Crash. 

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Styan, former business reporter and qualified accountant, said: “It will help Steinhoff to try and recover investor confidence.” 

Steinhoff announced on Monday that Van der Merwe will be stepping down end of December. He was chief of operations when he took over from Markus Jooste, former chief executive, who resigned in December 2017 in the midst of the group’s spectacular financial meltdown. 

In a statement published on the Stock Exchange News Service (Sens) Steinhoff said the company’s efforts since December 2017 had been largely focused on stabilising the group while engaging in an extremely complex and extensive restructuring process. 

“Having led the Group through the repayment of the South African debt and on to the final implementation stages of the restructuring to stabilise the Group for the next three years, Danie van der Merwe (60), who has been acting chief executive since 19 December 2017, having accomplished the goals set out above, has now decided to step down from this position effective 31 December 2018. 

He will be succeeded by Louis du Preez. 

Steinhoff shares spiked as much as 15 percent after it announced that it had appointed Louis du Preez, the company’s commercial director, as its permanent chief executive, sending shares in the South African retailer as much as 15% higher on Monday.

After the market had digested the news the shares closed at R1.98 on the JSE on Monday, 8.2 percent higher on the day.

“Danie will remain with the Group until 1 December 2019, during which period he will assist the incoming chief executive and the Management Board,” read the Sens statement.

“Van der Merwe was Jooste’s wingman for years and served with him on Stienhoff’s board. He was too close to Jooste for him to be able to instill any confidence in investors now. It’s better for the group that he goes. If Steinhoff wants any chance of surviving this epic disaster, it will have to do everything in its power to win back the trust of investors and the public.”

Steinhoff: Inside SA’s Biggest Corporate Crash is the first book about the Steinhoff saga and tells the astounding tale of the biggest financial crash in the history of South Africa. The book has consistently been a best seller since its release.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE