Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2007 (Revised March 2008)

Dr. Iqbal Survé at Sekunjalo Investment Group (A)

by Linda A. Hill and Emily Stecker

Abstract

Dr. Iqbal Surve, a self-described "medical doctor, philanthropist, and social entrepreneur," was born in 1963 and grew up in poverty, like virtually all non-white South Africans during apartheid. During the 1970s and 1980s, he served in leadership positions in the ANC, struggling against apartheid. After apartheid ended, Surve served as a medical doctor to many prominent South African leaders, like Nelson Mandela, and to the national soccer team. But by the mid-1990s, Surve, like many of his comrades, grew frustrated by the huge economic disparities that existed in South Africa, even though its progressive constitution afforded all citizens equal rights. It seemed the government's Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies were only enriching a few. In 1997, Surve and three of his comrades founded Sekunjalo, an investment holding company that sought to offer "a gentler capitalism" that stressed putting people before profits, and talent development as a means of raising the lives of previously disadvantaged South Africans. By 1999, the company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, making 36-year-old Surve the youngest CEO of a listed diversified conglomerate. From its inception, Sekunjalo only purchased controlling stakes in companies, hoping to empower black workers. In 1999, it had purchased a 5% stake in LeisureNet, a white-owned and -run South African company that operated health clubs globally and was seeking a BEE partner. Surve hoped to eventually purchase a majority stake in the company, but in 2000 the company went under in the biggest corporate scandal in South African history. In one day, Sekunjalo's stock dropped 44%. Surve, already a very public figure in South Africa, had to decide what to do, especially what to tell his loyal employees who had invested so much in Sekunjalo's mission.

Keywords: Crime and Corruption; Social Entrepreneurship; Investment; Leadership; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Partners and Partnerships; South Africa;

Citation:

Hill, Linda A., and Emily Stecker. "Dr. Iqbal Survé at Sekunjalo Investment Group (A)." Harvard Business School Case 407-019, April 2007. (Revised March 2008.)