Raymond Ackerman, who built Pick n Pay Stores Ltd. up from scratch into one of South Africa’s biggest supermarket chains and spent 43 years with the company before retiring in 2010, has died. He was 92.
(Bloomberg) — Raymond Ackerman, who built Pick n Pay Stores Ltd. up from scratch into one of South Africa’s biggest supermarket chains and spent 43 years with the company before retiring in 2010, has died. He was 92.
Ackerman died in Cape Town late Wednesday, Tamra Veley, a spokeswoman for his family said by phone.
Ackerman bought four small food shops for 620,000 rand ($32,210) in 1967 and then embarked on an aggressive expansion drive, listing Pick ‘n Pay on the Johannesburg stock exchange just two years later. The company currently operates in eight African countries, has more than 2,200 stores and franchise outlets, and employs about 90,000 people.
Ackerman was an outspoken critic of racial discrimination in the workplace during the apartheid era and in 1969 he appointed the company’s first Black store manager in contravention of legislation that reserved most senior posts for White employees. He however opposed international sanctions that were aimed at pressuring the White minority government into making democratic reforms, arguing that they destroyed jobs and deepened poverty.
Born in Cape Town on March 10, 1931, Ackerman studied commerce at the University of Cape Town and then joined Ackermans, a clothing retailer founded by his father, Gus. That business was acquired by competitor Greatermans Group in 1946.
Greatermans appointed Ackerman as head of Checkers, its new grocery chain, in 1957 and under his watch it opened 85 outlets over the course of a decade. The company fired him in 1966, shortly after the death of his father who had served on its board.
Ackerman used his two weeks of severance pay, a bank loan, part of his inheritance and money raised by selling shares to friends to buy his first stores. As the company grew, he built up a reputation as a consumer rights champion as he took on supplier cartels of bread and cigarettes, and advocated for the deregulation of the petroleum industry.
Pick n Pay re-branded itself in 2007, dropping the apostrophe from its name. It made two failed forays into Australia and it lost the title of South Africa’s ’s biggest retailer to Shoprite Holdings Ltd. as it ceded domestic market share — a situation its management has been trying to reverse for more than a decade.
Ackerman spurned several buyout offers for the company, saying he didn’t want to change its culture. His eldest son, Gareth, succeeded him as chairman after he retired, and his other son, one of his daughters and his son-in-law also serve on the retailer’s board.
Ackerman is survived by his wife, Wendy, four children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
(Updates with details of career starting in third paragraph)
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