Enigmatic Sandler the hammer behind Nail
OF THE quartet who rule black empowerment group New Africa Investments, one figure stands out: Jonty Sandler, its managing director.
White and Jewish, he is credited with much of the success and financial engineering that has made Nail one of the largest listed black empowerment groups, with a market capitalisation of more than R4-billion.
Nail was formed in 1993 and the group immediately bought 10% of Metropolitan Life from Sankorp for R135-million. Over time Nail built up its stake in Metlife to 34.9% and this week it made an offer to Metlife shareholders to buy an extra 16.1% to increase its stake in the insurance group to 51%.
Those close to Nail attribute the group's success to Sandler. But he remains an enigma and an extremely private person.
Little has been written about him, yet he was a prominent feature in empowerment circles long before the concept became a cliché. An article in the Financial Mail in 1988 described him as "a controversial figure whose volatile temper is well known". Others, who declined to be named, echoed similar sentiments, saying that "he does not take crap".
"He keeps the backseat at Nail. But while the other Nail executives - Nthato Motlana, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Dikgang Moseneke - have the important political connections, he has the Jewish connections, " said one.
Sandler was not available for an interview this week.
He first shot to prominence in the mid-80s when he was linked to the ill-fated entertainment resort, Shareworld.
Sandler, together with Reuel Khoza (now Eskom chairman), planned an entertainment complex on the outskirts of Soweto in which blacks were offered shares. But the complex, bankrolled by Standard Bank, ran into problems: capital costs soared to R28-million from the original R17-million and it sustained monthly losses of R1-million throughout its 18 months of operation. Standard Bank , which lost close to R50-million on the venture, eventually pulled the plug.
The construction contract for Shareworld was awarded to Corporate Construction, a company controlled by Sandler while the design was awarded to Corporate Concept, also run by Sandler. Sandler resigned as managing director of the project barely a year after it opened.
He faded from the scene, resurfacing at Nail in 1993 when Motlana was building the first blocks of his empire.
Sandler was the son in NH Motlana & Son, later Corporate Africa Entrepreneurs, which held ultimate control of Nail.
Sandler holds a direct and indirect stake of 12.1-million shares in Nail worth R64-million at current market prices. His holding is higher than that of Nail chairman Motlana, Moseneke and Ramaphosa.
Sandler's early commercial experience was in the retail sector working for Woolworths and Edgars. During this time he obtained a BCom Honours degree and an MBA.