Wits bestows doctorate on Bidvest’s Joffe
Bidvest’s Brian Joffe, who announced his partial retirement last week, received an honorary doctorate this week from his alma mater, Wits University. Joffe graduated from Wits University as a chartered accountant in 1971.
“Joffe, who started the Bidvest Group from somewhat humble beginnings,” said Chancellor Dikgang Moseneke, before turning it “into being one of the leading corporations in South Africa, with a turnover of over R204 billion, employing more than 145 000 people, of which over 125 000 are in South Africa.”
RIGHT: The event was presided over by by Wits University Chancellor, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, left, and Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib
At the graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management today, the story was retold how Joffe had famously launched his entrepreneurial career in 1978 by borrowing R49 000 to buy an interest in a small pet food manufacturer..
A year later, he borrowed again, to acquire full ownership and to expand the company. Within six months his business – using largely discarded machinery on a makeshift production line – held 15 per cent of South Africa’s canned dog food market.
Brian Joffe subsequently sold this business to a major industrial group.
Joffe launched Bidvest in 1989 and built it to be the company it is today.
He looked beyond apartheid to a democratic future in which South Africa would again be integrated into the global economy.
He bought businesses that others were eager to sell, consistently expressing his faith in South Africa’s ability to transform and grow.
In the process, he developed a uniquely empowered business model driven by autonomous entrepreneurs, each responsible for growing their own operations.
Joffe is also a past-winner of an SA Jewish Report’s Absa Jewish Business Achiever award.
“Following acquisition by Bidvest, under-performing operations were often transformed into industry leaders,” said Justice Moseneke. “Countless jobs were saved and the basis established for a diversified group.
“Joffe also looked beyond the received wisdom of focusing on ‘core strengths’. Instead, he built a diversified company with interests in sectors as spread out as food services, travel services and pharmaceuticals. Rather than focusing on one market, Joffe built his company on consolidating diverse markets,” Moseneke told the assembly.
Joffe sought also to build a strategically diversified company by building an international set of activities, added Moseneke. “The first international acquisition occurred in 1995 when Manettas Australia (now Bidvest Australia) was acquired. The business had hit hard times and needed a substantial capital injection.”
Today, the business is Australia’s leading national food service supplier.
The chancellor said that the business Joffe leads makes a sustained contribution to communities and worthy causes, locally and in all markets where its subsidiaries are active.
“It is estimated that over the past decade, Bidvest’s social investment has topped R540 million. The contribution of the Johannesburg corporate office alone tops R120 million.” Moseneke highlighted the Johannesburg Chevrah Kadisha and ORT SA, as well as other corporate projects such as: Reach For a Dream, QuadPara (to develop the potential of quadriplegics and paraplegics), Sagda (graduate development), Hear for Life, the Chefs Association, Wits University, Hospice, Bethany House, the Nkosi Haven and PinkDrive.”
LISTEN TO OR DOWNLOAD THE AUDIO OF THE CEREMONY
Addressing the granduants at the ceremony, Joffe inspired them to strive to make South Africa a better place for their children and grandchildren.
“We need to create South Africa for tomorrow – every one of us. And, if we manage to do that, we would be able to come back and stand up here. And, instead of you listening to me talk, you can do the talking, and tell everybody what you’ve done over the last 45 years,” he said.
Don’t forget your new hat, Doc: Mosonenke bestows the trappings of his honorary doctorate to Brian Joffe