Wealthy dynasty built on SA gold

Mining merger: After 81 years, Anglo re-invents itself for the post-apartheid era

STRENGTH THROUGH diversity has been the watchword of Anglo American since it was founded in 1917 by Ernest Oppenheimer, a German-born diamond merchant who arrived in South Africa in 1902.

For 81 years three generations of Oppenheimers have built a business set up with pounds 1m into a unique company - a pounds 6bn conglomerate whose interests range from gold, platinum, diamonds, coal and copper into manufacturing, banking and financial services, in South Africa and abroad.

The company has grown into a complex network of inter-dependent companies, reinforced by crossholdings of shares and interlocking directorships.

The Oppenheimers kept open links with the world outside apartheid South Africa. At home they established an impressive network of contacts in politics and finance, employing Rhodes scholars and acting as a pillar of the English-speaking business community. They co-operated with the post-1948 Nationalist governments, yet maintained a reputation as the conscience of liberal capitalism.

Sir Ernest built the company mainly on gold mining. In the 1920s he moved back into diamonds and set up a rival to the Diamond Syndicate and the leading producer, De Beers. By 1929 he had become chairman of De Beers and established the Diamond Corporation, which had a global monopoly in the marketing of diamonds.

In 1928 Anglo American acted as consulting engineers to a group of companies developing the copper mines of Northern Rhodesia, then absorbed them into a new company, Rhodesian Anglo American, which became Mineral and Resources Corporation, and finally Minorco.

The gold, diamond and copper mines were reorganised into holding companies with their own access to outside capital, as Anglo diversified into manufacturing, brewing, banking and financial services.

The Nationalist government elected in 1948 encouraged the establishment of rival companies controlled by Afrikaners. But Harry Oppenheimer, Sir Ernest's son who succeeded as chairman in 1957, kept Anglo's relations with the government sweet while maintaining links with the outside world.

In 1965 Anglo merged its mining interests to form Charter Consolidated, which gave it investment opportunities outside South Africa. In 1971 the newly independent government of Zambia nationalised the country's copper mines, but Anglo American used the $75m it received in compensation to create Minerals and Resources Corporation as a mining investment trust.

As South Africa became isolated Anglo grew nervous about its position and the Oppenheimers began to criticise apartheid. In 1985 Gavin Relly, who succeeded Harry Oppenheimer as chairman in 1982, met representatives of the ANC.

In 1987 the Minerals and Resources Corporation was renamed Minorco, moving to Luxembourg. Minorco was given control of all Anglo's assets outside Africa in return for a 45.6 per cent shareholding.

After majority rule in South Africa, the dual structure is superfluous and Anglo American has been wary of being isolated from markets and sources of finance outside South Africa. This led to yesterday's decision to reintegrate Minorco and move the domicile of the entire company to London.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable