News Item

SIR DONALD GORDON CLASS OF 1947

SIR DONALD GORDON CLASS OF 1947
 
Sir Donald Gordon one of King Edward VII School’s most celebrated Alumni has passed away.
Not only did Sir Donald Gordon forge one of the greatest businesses in South Africa, (the Liberty Life Group), he made massive contributions to King Edward VII School (including donating Gordon House) and the Old Edwardian Society as well as many other institutions in South African and the United Kingdom (the Opera House in Cardiff). He also created a financial and shopping centre giant in the United Kingdom and won numerous prestigious awards.
 
He willingly became a patron of the Centenary in 2002 and his pride in the School and how it has evolved was clearly evident when he met that year’s Headboy – Wakule Tshabangu.
 
He was founding donor of the Gordon Institute of Business Science and a major donor for the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.
 
We extend our condolences to the Gordon and Appelbaum Family, our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.

Sir Donald Gordon: Biography

At a Glance

  • Born: 24 June 1930 in South Africa
  • Source of Wealth: Insurance, self-made
  • Residence:  London, United Kingdom; Europe & Russia
  • Country of Citizenship: South Africa & UK
  • Education: Accounting Country of Citizenship: South Africa & UK
  • Marital Status: Married, 3 children

Sir Donald Gordon is an accountant by training, founded life insurance company Liberty Life at age 27 with initial capital of R100, 000. Built it into a leading South African financial company; sold out in 1999. He also founded London-listed Liberty International, now one of the largest regional shopping Centre companies in Europe, in 1980s. Retired as chairman in June 2005 on 75th birthday, though still holds 21% stake and appointed president for life. Celebrated milestone with party at Royal Opera House, where he is a donor. He has dual citizen of South Africa and U.K. Knighted in June. Staff of eight looks after his personal investments; in past year, has been investing in currencies. A few years ago, he bought a new $45 million Falcon 7X airplane to shuttle between homes in London, Florida and South Africa.

Gordon, who holds both UK and South African citizenship, built up two successful business empires, Liberty Life in South Africa and top UK property company Liberty International.

Gordon has made significant donations to British opera. The Sunday Times reported that his £20-million (R248-million) sponsorship of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and the renamed Donald Gordon Opera Theatre in Cardiff.

It is believed that this is the largest single private donation ever made to the arts in the UK.  Donald Gordon retired from Liberty Life in 1999, but still contributes to many South African charities.

The Donald Gordon Foundation, formed in the early 1970s, is the largest private charity in Southern Africa.

The Sunday Times reports that its donations include R100-million to Wits University for the Donald Gordon Medical Centre. The Gordon Institute of Business Science is named in recognition of Gordon’s contribution to South African business, and Gordon’s R30-million endowment to the institute.

In 1957 Gordon, a chartered accountant by profession, founded Liberty Life Association of Africa with initial capital of R100 000. By the time he retired as chair of Liberty Life in 1999, the company was valued at over R40-billion.

At the time Liberty Life was the largest listed life company and the third-largest life insurance company in South Africa, and was also listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Gordon co-founded UK Company Abbey Life Insurance, which has since become one of the largest life companies in the UK and is a major subsidiary of Lloyds Bank.

In 1980 Gordon founded Liberty International, a £5-billion (R62-billion) shopping Centre and commercial real estate business and the third-largest property company in the UK.

In October 2000 at the 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards (sponsored by Citibank, The Times, Ernst & Young and Vodaphone) in London Sir Donald received the Entrepreneur of the Year Special Award for Lifetime Achievement. Other awards recognizing his career achievements include an honorary doctorate of economic science from the University of the Witwatersrand and an honorary doctorate in commerce from the university of Pretoria. In December 1999 he was cited as “The Achiever of the Century in South African Financial Services” by the prestigious Financial Mail, the leading South African business journal and as Business Man of the Year by the South African Sunday Times in 1968. In June 2005 was awarded a knighthood in recognition of his services to the arts and business.

Career

Gordon was educated at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg before doing his articles to be a Chartered Accountant at the firm Kessel Feinstein (Now Grant Thornton).

He founded the Liberty Life Association of Africa in 1957 out of which he formed Transatlantic Insurance Holdings plc, now Liberty International, in 1980.

Gordon was a director of the Guardian Royal Exchange Group for 24 years and chaired their South African subsidiary, Guardian National Insurance Company.

Other Interests

The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg, South Africa was established in January 2000 following a substantial contribution by Donald Gordon and a major investment by the University of Pretoria.

In 2004, Gordon gave the Royal Opera House and Wales Millennium Centre a collective donation of £20 million payable over five years. This is believed to be one of the largest single private donation ever made to the arts in the UK. Sir Donald has had the Grand Tier at the Royal Opera House as well as the main auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre named after him.

Awards and recognition

 At the 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in London, Gordon received the Entrepreneur of the Year Special Award for Lifetime Achievement. He received an honorary doctorate of economic science from the University of the Witwatersrand and an honorary doctorate in commerce from the University of Pretoria. In 1968 he was named ‘Business Man of the Year’ by the South African Sunday Times. In 1999 he was named as ‘The Achiever of the Century in South African Financial Services’ by South African Financial Mail.

In June 2005, he was awarded a knighthood in recognition of his services to arts and business.

TERTIARY EDUCATIONAL HISTORY

  • University of Pretoria
  • Honorary Doctor of Commerce
  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • Awarded in 1991
  • Honorary Doctor of Economic Science

ACHIEVEMENTS / AWARDS

  • The Achiever of the Century in South African Financial Services | Financial Mail
  • Business Man of the Year | South African Sunday Times
  • AND MANY OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS