'Grandfather of South African business' dies

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The Independent Online

Harry Oppenheimer, scion of the founding family of the giant Anglo American Corporation and also known as the "grandfather of South African business", died at the weekend following a short illness.

Harry Oppenheimer, scion of the founding family of the giant Anglo American Corporation and also known as the "grandfather of South African business", died at the weekend following a short illness.

Mr Oppenheimer's father, Sir Ernest, founded the company in 1917 as the first mining house to be controlled in South Africa rather than London. Sir Ernest, chairman of Anglo American, the gold mining company, became chairman of De Beers in 1929 after steadily building up his interests in the diamond world. The two companies are linked through large cross-shareholdings.

Harry Oppenheimer was a member of the boards of both companies from 1934 and was to succeed his father as chairman of both. Although he was actively involved in South African politics as a liberal, and was elected a member of parliament in 1948, he resigned his seat in 1957 upon his father's death and devoted himself full-time to business.

Mr Oppenheimer was also involved in the foundation of the country's first merchant bank - UAL - and discount house, in effect establishing a money market in the country.

During the 1960s and 1970s he presided over a period of vigorous expansion of De Beers in the diamond industry, producing the global cartel that still controls the majority of the world's diamond markets. The period also saw the emergence of Anglo as a major international company as it expanded overseas and moved into new areas such as coal, base metals and platinum.

Mr Oppenheimer retired from the Anglo board after 48 years on relinquishing the chairmanship, and from the De Beers board in 1994, after serving the company for 60 years.

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