Jim Armitage: Man who put South African Breweries on global stage dies

Outlook I first met Graham Mackay, who died yesterday at 64, in a rather nice restaurant in London's Mayfair just before the turn of the millennium. With no great insight on my part – mere technophobia, really – I couldn't understand why nobody in the City seemed to be interested in investing in anything that didn't end in ".com".

Mr Mackay had just floated a very real, very non-dotcom business – South African Breweries – on the London Stock Exchange and he drily mused about how its valuation would have a few more noughts on the end if he'd managed to create some absurd online story to tell investors. I wasn't being dim about tech, he insisted: the markets were.

SAB was employing many thousands of South Africans making and selling millions of hectolitres of beer to a thirsty nation. All this piqued my interest in all things African, but was not much aid to my quest for a UK angle to tempt my editors. That all changed as Mr Mackay's beer deal machine got into gear. He'd floated SAB in London to raise money to buy businesses outside of Africa, and that was quickly what he did. Miller in the US was a huge bite – too big for many analysts' comfort but one he eventually bedded down.

Another whopper – cleverer than Miller in my view – was the Latin American brewer, Bavaria. With that he sewed up a commanding position in new, fast growing emerging markets – bread and butter to a man steeped in Africa. Urquell – a favourite tipple of mine – was smaller but easy to build. The later Peroni deal was similar: he turned this from a fairly small, specialist Italian brand into a premium end mainstream lager. Somehow he even managed to get away with selling it for over £5 a pint in city bars. Under Mr Mackay's leadership, SAB became the world's second biggest brewer. It stands utterly transformed into a true global champion. For South Africans, in these nervy post-Mandela times, they can be proud of this strong, African company he developed. For the brewing world, if you'll forgive the pun, a very canny man is lost. He died peacefully, surrounded by his family in Hampshire and is survived by his second wife Bev and his six sons.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there