Braam van Huyssteen, the founder of Tekkie Town which is now embroiled in a number of legal disputes with Steinhoff Africa Retail (to be renamed Pepkor) and its parent, Steinhoff, indicated in an interview that launching a rival to the company he built over a number of decades and sold to Steinhoff in 2016 is one of the options he is currently considering.
Listen: Let’s get going with Tekkie Town Two
When asked on the Moneyweb at Midday show on Thursday what he would do if he could not get Tekkie Town back (through litigation or other means), he stated: “As I have explained to you, we did financially quite well from that transaction [referring to the sale of 42% of the business to private equity firm Actis as a minority investor for R700 million in 2014]. So financially we are in a very strong position. I know that I have the full support of all the management, I have the full support of all our suppliers, and I have the full support of all the landlords that I have built relationships with over the years. There is really nothing in my way to start a competitor. Obviously it’s very sad that it has to go that way, but if that is the way it has to go, let’s get going with Tekkie Town Two. We have done it before, we can obviously do it much faster this time because we have got enough money, we have got resources, we have got the relationships, nothing is going to stop us.”
Van Huyssteen is only 53, so there is plenty of time for him to build the sequel to his first act. He would also be following in the footsteps of other retail tycoons like Raymond Ackerman and Stanley Lewis who had to start over.
But when we got in touch with Van Huyssteen after the interview to ascertain more details, he was more circumspect, saying that he hasn’t made any plans and would like to see how things “pan out” in the next few weeks.
Ron Rink, the ex-CEO of Puma South Africa who began working with Van Huyssteen and Tekkie Town in 2003, thinks competitors better pay attention. “I am not party to what is going on inside Star/Pepkor at the moment, nor what Braam’s plans are going forward. I met him when he owned just one store and watched as he and his team grew their business over the years. I had to convince my team in the beginning that he was going to be one of the leading retailers in the country, at a time when Edgars and others were the powerhouses in the footwear sector, and now look. He is a talented entrepreneur, has boundless energy, and is very determined. If he does establish another chain in the footwear sector he is going to be a major player and the competitors would want to be aware of him.”
Van Huyssteen has already terminated his employment with Pepkor, leaving him free to mull his options. His loss may not be as great to Pepkor as it would be if the executive committee of the Speciality Fashion and Footwear division, which are largely all ex-Tekkie Town executives, follow suit and go with him. That would be a crippling loss to the company that could drastically revise the projections of the growth in the business that to date has performed exceptionally well under Pepkor.