Property mogul Nic Georgiou passed away on Friday morning in Cyprus, after he reportedly suffered a heart attack. He had travelled to Cyprus to attend his brother’s funeral.
He was 76 years old.
Georgiou was a controversial figure as a result of his involvement with the failed Picvest, Highveld Syndication (HS)( property syndication schemes) and subsequent rescue efforts to repay the 18 000 HS investors around R4.6 billion.
However, what is not well known is that he came to South Africa in 1961 as a poor 16-year old without any tertiary education. Initially, he worked for his uncle in Port Elizabeth to support his family, but he moved to Bloemfontein after a few years where he started and managed several businesses. One of the first was a small shop to serve construction workers building the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam, known today as the Gariep Dam.
Georgiou later started a chain of fruit and vegetable stores in Bloemfontein, which became very successful. He entered the property fray when he acquired many of the properties which housed the stores. He also invested in properties, and the portfolio later grew to such an extent that it was regarded as one of the largest privately-owned property portfolios in the country.
During this period, he became a respected member and leader in the Greek community and assisted many individuals to also start their own businesses.
He became involved with the Picvest and Highveld Syndication schemes as far back as 2007.
When the HS schemes collapsed in 2011 and were put into business rescue, he became the principal to drive and manage a rescue process to repay investors.
Unfortunately, the terms of the rescue plan weren’t fully implemented. The process was characterised by numerous lawsuits, a class action application and legal challenges, mostly related to the non-transfer of the historic Picvest properties to the rescue vehicle, Orthotouch.
Georgiou’s company Zephan and Orthotouch are currently in business rescue.
Georgiou was also facing a sequestration application.