Always on the ball in transformation game
TITLE: Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Holdings
EDUCATION: National Marketing Diploma, Wits Technikon
QUALITY TIME: Soccer, reading and listening to music
WITHIN weeks of his appointment as chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Holdings, Kgomotso Modise is on the verge of clinching a deal that will radically transform one of SA's leading advertising agencies into a black-owned company.
His goal of putting 51% of the group's shares in the control of black hands within the first six months of his reign could be achieved much quicker as three black empowerment groups have shown interest in the international ad agency.
Modise is not new in the tough business of transformation. More than 25 years ago, as general manager of the then National Professional Soccer League, he introduced non-racial football into SA at a time when it was deemed "improper" for sportsmen from various racial groups to play together.
"I can still remember the first multiracial game. It was in 1974 and Orlando Pirates played against Wits University. It was very exciting to see our dream become reality," says Modise.
It was during his tenure as a soccer administrator that Modise was wooed into advertising.
"In the 1970s we had a tournament sponsored by the Meat Board and Saatchi & Saatchi handled the board's account. As we held meetings I got to know much about the advertising business. I developed a very good relationship with the agency's senior management and when I decided to leave football in 1979, Saatchi became my obvious destination," he says.
In that year he set up Saatchi's office in Soweto - making it the first agency to be located in SA's biggest township. From these offices, "Tso" - as Modise is affectionately known in Soweto - handled the accounts of companies like KWV, which was making in-roads into the black market.
Unfortunately, Modise suffered an injury which left him hospitalised for four years, forcing Saatchi to shut down its Soweto operation in 1982.
Modise regards the three years he spent at the Soweto office as being his "most valuable experience" because it was there that he first had a taste of managing an ad agency.
Since then, he has worked in every department at Saatchi's main office. His rise in the advertising world was interrupted in 1992, when he was approached to take over as chief executive of the National Soccer League after a leadership crisis arising from the arrest of Cyril Kobus, the boss, and charismatic public relations officer Abdul Bhamjee.
The two officials were accused of corruption and Modise was brought in to restore soccer's tainted image.
Two years later he opted to return to advertising.
He became deputy chairman of the agency and initiated a bursary scheme for students from previously disadvantaged communities studying advertising.
"With all the changes happening in the country in 1994, I would not have anything to do with an agency that was not for change," he says.
So he formed a black consortium and initiated talks with Saatchi which resulted in the consortium gaining a 26% stake in the agency.
Now he wants the stake increased to give blacks a controlling share.
"There are changes everywhere, but so little has been done in the advertising industry. A number of clients are now owned or managed by black people, they demand to see changes here and it isn't happening. We want Saatchi to be the first of the main agencies to be controlled by black people," says Modise.
But he stresses that the new partners would have to add value to Saatchi's business.
"It is not empowerment for the sake of black faces on the board. Merit is the key and that is why we have concentrated on groups already involved in the media sector," he says.