Allan Gray, the founder of the asset manager that carries his name and one of South Africa’s greatest philanthropists, passed away from a heart attack over the weekend in Bermuda. He was 81 years old.
Gray was born in East London in 1938, and studied accounting at Rhodes University in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape before completing an MBA at Harvard Business School. He spent eight years in Boston working for one of the world’s largest asset managers – Fidelity Management and Research (now known as Fidelity Investments) – before returning to South Africa to found Allan Gray Limited in 1973.
In 1989, he founded the international asset manager Orbis Investment Management, which is based in Bermuda. He also later made the Caribbean island his primary residence.
In 2013, Nigerian magazine Ventures estimated that Gray was the wealthiest man in South Africa, with a net worth of $8.5 billion. He was, however, always fiercely private and his personal fortune was never known for certain.
In recent years Gray in any case donated the bulk of his wealth to charity. In December 2015 he announced that he had transferred his controlling stakes in Allan Gray Limited and Orbis to the Allan & Gill Gray Foundation. In terms of its charter, all of the dividends paid into this foundation must be used exclusively for philanthropic purposes.
Gray also established the Allan Gray Foundation in 2005, which is funded by a donation of a minimum of 5% of the annual pre-tax profits of Allan Gray Limited. It is also supported by an endowment trust that was capitalised with R1 billion from Gray himself.
Now known as the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the organisation aims to foster entrepreneurship by providing entrepreneurially-minded young South Africans with scholarships at school level, funding for university education, and support for their small businesses.
The foundation also funds the centre for Values-based Leadership at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, and the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes University.
As of 2017, Forbes estimated Gray’s net worth to be $1.8 billion.
In a statement, Allan Gray Limited said:
It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the death of Allan William Buchanan Gray on 10 November 2019, of natural causes. Our first thoughts are with his family, and with them, as colleagues and friends, we are mourning the passing of a man who made an immeasurable impact on many lives as an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist.
He has earned his rest.