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Michael Katz pays tribute to Gerald Leissner




Gerald Leissner was “a leading South African businessman and has enjoyed a sterling career in the South African property industry,” writes Professor Michael Katz.

Gerald Leissner Arrowhead“His achievements in that industry have been enormous and he is regarded by many as ‘Mr Property’,” he says. To others, Gerald Leissner was known as ‘Mr Community’ for the role he played in running and fundraising for communal organisations.

Michael Katz is one of the most distinguished among South African Jewry and his enormous contribution to the success and stability of the South African corporate, legal and financial sectors – and his expertise in corporate governance – will ensure his own legacy in years to come.

RIGHT: Gerald Leissner

Read: Who is Professor Michael Katz?, below, as well as related reads available on this website on Gerald Leissner.

But first, read Katz’s eulogy to his friend…


Although Gerald had been ill for some time, his recent passing came as a great shock to communal and business leaders. He was much respected and admired by a huge constituency and will be sorely missed by the many institutions and organisations in which he played a pivotal part. 

He was humble and modest. He didn’t seek the glory and recognition which he so richly deserved. In everything that he undertook he was committed and driven. He quietly got on with the job without any fuss or ceremony. Although he was a visionary in so many respects, when it came to the implementation of his vision he was totally practical, concentrating on what needed to be done and what was achievable. 

Gerald Leissner ArrowheadGerald was an out-and-out community man, always seeking activities that would enhance the wellbeing of the community.

He was absolutely dedicated to the religious, educational, welfare and historical needs of the Jewish community. 

When I was chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Gerald was our vice-chairman and when I was president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Gerald was the chairman.

These were difficult days for the country and the community and required much wisdom and leadership. Gerald was a solid rock, displaying great maturity. He also displayed a well-developed social conscience with great concern for the poor and oppressed. In this regard, he was ahead of his time and spoke his mind with courage. 

He was a pivotal fundraiser for the new museum in Westcliffe which is run by the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Foundation, of which he was vice-chairman.

Gerald Leissner2His vision, commitment and tireless work ethic will be sorely missed by his fellow trustees; board meetings will never be the same without the knowledge that Gerald is a pivotal member of the team.

I say, without hesitation, that absent Gerald’s leadership and tireless fundraising efforts, the magnificent Holocaust and Genocide Museum would not have existed. His role in the establishment and running of the Yeshiva College also requires no elaboration. There, too, his contribution has been fundamental.

The organisation of the community’s funding requirements, including the IUA-UCF Trust and the structuring of Beyachad are also testament to Gerald’s vision and dedication, as is the 2000 Foundation.

In addition, he was chairman for some time of the South African Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

He was also a leading South African businessman and has enjoyed a sterling career in the South African property industry. His achievements in that industry have been enormous and he is regarded by many as “Mr Property”.

His outstanding contribution to many spheres of life has been recognised by a multiplicity of prestigious awards that he received. 

In addition to the aforegoing, Gerald was a great family man. He dearly loved his family and they meant a great deal to him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Shirley and the wider Leissner family. Thanks for sharing him with us. 

Gerald needs no epitaphs. They exist all over: including the Yeshiva College, Beyachad, the Jewish Holocaust and Genocide Museum, to name a few. Gerald was ubiquitous and will be sorely missed by his many constituents.




Professor Michael Katz is chairman of ENSafrica – the largest legal practice on the Continent. He specialises in corporate and commercial law. He is regularly quoted in the media and is a sought-after speaker at international and domestic conferences. Katz publishes numerous articles, chapters and papers on legal and fiscal topics, including co-authoring the Butterworths Company Law Precedents (four volumes) and South Africa’s contribution to the United Nations’ and Harvard University’s Corporate Law Tools Project.

Leissner michael katz1Katz currently holds academic appointments at Wits, Free State University, Pretoria University and is a member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He is (or has) also chaired the Specialist Committee on Company Law (established in terms of section 191 of the Companies Act, 2008); the Tax Advisory Committee, reporting to the Minister of Finance; and the Commission of Inquiry to Investigate the Taxation System of South Africa (appointed by Government).

He is also a member of the King Committee on Corporate Governance and sits on a number of company boards

He is the Trustee of numerous prestigious trusts, including: The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund; Constitution Hill Trust; Legal Resources Trust; Constitutional Court Trust; The Donald Gordon Foundation; and The South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation.

Prof Katz also chaired the Commission of Enquiry for the JSE to review the structure and operations of the stock exchange; was a Director of the 2010 FIFA World Cup LOC; remains a Trustee of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy Trust; is the Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Housing Finance Corp Ltd; and a member of the FSB Legislative Committee – among his many active positions.


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