An insider glimpse into the biggest corporate scam in South African history, Steinheist features the wealthiest cast in Showmax history, including former Steinhoff chairman Christo Wiese.
A driving force in the success stories of PEP and Shoprite, Wiese was once the richest man in South Africa. In the words of Financial Mail editor Rob Rose, who wrote the book of the same name that Steinheist is adapted from, “He was the Warren Buffet of South Africa.”
Wiese remains a billionaire despite reportedly losing the bulk of his wealth in the Steinhoff crash, when the share price plunged by 90% in a week in December 2017 after CEO Markus Jooste resigned amid an investigation into accounting irregularities. This wiped over R200 billion off Johannesburg’s stock exchange, the JSE – and off ordinary South Africans’ pensions and investments.
“While the numbers involved are jaw-dropping, we knew we wanted to keep the focus on the people involved,” says director Richard Gregory, whose Patagonia-set feature documentary on Showmax, The Boers At The End of The World, won three SAFTAs in 2016. “In Steinheist, Christo Wiese speaks very candidly about everything that happened, which is as close to getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth as we could have hoped for.”
Here are some particularly quotable Christo Wiese gems from Steinheist, which have been hailed as “truly world-class” and “riveting” by BizNews.
On whether he knows how wealthy he is, within the closest billion
I have no idea because my experience has been that generally, people who know how much they’re worth are not worth a hell of a lot.
On getting rich vs staying rich
There’s getting rich… Easy. Staying rich? Much more difficult.
On his reaction to the Steinhoff crash
When I looked at myself in the mirror after the terrible news from Steinhoff, I decided I will have to find clear guideposts to get through this one. Number one: I don’t mourn the loss of money, because the money you make, you can lose and you can try to make it again. Secondly, I count my blessings. And thirdly, I’m not going to become a bitter person, because nobody wants bitter people around them.
On owning wine farms, and selling Lanzerac to Markus Jooste for Steinhoff shares
I always tell people, one wine estate is one too many… To have two is close to a nightmare.
On Markus Jooste’s alleged affair
I don’t want to sound like a goody-two-shoes, but that’s a no-no… For a CEO to have an affair known to his subordinates is a no-no. I fired at least two senior executives because of that. Because you lose the trust of the people that report to you. If he could lie to his wife of 40-odd years every day, why wouldn’t he lie to me? You know that can’t be tolerated.
In the aftermath of the tax raid before Steinhoff’s listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange
When that raid happened, the board of Steinhoff appointed one of the largest forensic investigator firms in Germany to interrogate every one of the allegations made. They still gave me a report, and the board, that it’s all nonsense: Jooste’s version is the truth… Again, the Jooste black magic… It’s the only explanation. Because these people had never done business with Steinhoff. There was no relationship.
On being told by Deloitte that Steinhoff’s management had been defrauding the company for years
I said, ‘But you guys are crazy. What are you talking about?’ And they gave me the six points that they queried, and I looked at them. I said, ‘But you signed off on all these points last year, and for the previous 15 years. Where does this come from?’.
On confronting Markus Jooste after the meeting with Deloitte
I said, ‘These people say you are a fraud and a crook.’ And he said, ‘On what basis?’ I said, ‘Well, you know, these six points.’ He gave the auditors such an explanation in half an hour, that they changed their entire tone. And he said he’s going to Germany, he will return on Monday, and he will satisfy them. He will clear everything up…
On whether he sees Steinhoff as the biggest mistake of his otherwise stellar career
It is the biggest mistake by a country mile… What it cost me in monetary terms, but what it cost also in reputational terms, it’s by a country mile the biggest mistake.
On Markus Jooste
Obviously, he is a very, very smart operator, and with nerves of steel. How do you do this for 15 years? And you have to get through all these gatekeepers? This isn’t a normal person. You’ve got to be an artist, knowing every button to push with every person.
On what the Steinhoff board should have done differently
There is no foolproof protection against a CEO who is a crook.
Steinheist set a new record on Showmax for the most first-day views of any documentary series, ahead of the SAFTA-winning true crime phenomenon Devilsdorp. Both Showmax Originals are produced by IdeaCandy. All three episodes of Steinheist are now available to binge on Showmax.
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