Bets are off for bookie boy Markus

Steinhoff's business was a bit of a gamble and racing fan Jooste has come a cropper

10 December 2017 - 00:00 By NADINE DREYER

If Markus Jooste ever dreamt of somersaulting into the Guinness World Records annual, he did a damn good job this week of staging his bid to go where nobody has gone before.
He could have balanced 10 North Korean midgets on his nose, or performed backflips off Table Mountain in his jockstrap to achieve immortality. Instead, he wiped out up to 90% of the value of Steinhoff, the multinational he ran until Tuesday night. Not a bad way to get attention.
But really, let's get serious. How, in a matter of days, does one destroy a multinational with 130,000 employees in 32 countries and worth gazoodles of dollars? Do you hand the keys to the safe to Grace Mugabe? Appoint Shaun Abrahams as the new CEO? Spring Bernie Madoff from chookie?By his own admission, the 56-year-old, described by a friend as an ordinary boykie, had plenty of lucky breaks during his career. Although his father had a modest job at the post office and money was tight, dad was close to his son, who describes him as a "very special and intelligent guy".
"When we were young, every night he would sit and go through all your homework with you and help you. It was a culture. Children develop their intelligence very young and he put his whole life into his children. He couldn't afford other things, so that probably helped a lot. He built that drive to be successful."
Excellent matric results secured Jooste a bursary from Stellenbosch University and although he left varsity three years later with a R100,000 study debt, he was hungry for success and now possessed a qualification as a chartered accountant.
Ironically, when he started his articles in 1982, the first office the young Jooste walked into on his first day was owned by none other than billionaire businessman Christo Wiese. "I always said that with everything in life, the path is there for you," Jooste once told a financial journalist about meeting Wiese.
But three decades later the brown stuff has hit the fan in the most spectacular fashion and right now Wiese must wish that his pal and fellow member of the so-called Stellenbosch mafia had tripped and smacked his head on the paving stones. Thanks to Jooste's shenanigans, Wiese lost nearly R30-billion this week. Try explaining that to the missus.
As for Jooste, at least with $400-million (about R5.47-billion) in the bank, he can afford tissues to wipe away the tears.News sites reported that building operations have stopped on the Jooste holiday home in Hermanus in the wake of his disgrace. Naturally it was projected to be the most expensive house in the seaside town. Naturally it was being built on pristine land right on the oceanfront and probably flouting environmental regulations. Naturally the foundation excavations were the size of a shopping centre. (Why miss an opportunity to play the mogul's favourite game: "Mine is bigger than yours"?)
Although we must now question his business acumen, Jooste must hope he can now focus on his other passion. He definitely knows more about horses than that one end bites and the other end kicks.
In an interview last year he described how his love for horseracing started when as a young boy he went with his father to the Tattersalls shop, which was right next door to his dad's office in Pretoria. "You listened to the commentary via radio. At the age of 12, I was what you call a runner - the guy who ran between bookmakers with tickets laying off their bets with each other."
But this little sprog was never going to be content with just risking his pocket money on some donkey tarted up as a dead cert, and today he is one of the biggest owners of thoroughbred horses in the country, reportedly with more than 200 horses in training.

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