Markus Jooste commits suicide at Hermanus home

Markus Jooste. Western Cape police confirmed his death after social media speculation. Picture Henk Kruger

Markus Jooste. Western Cape police confirmed his death after social media speculation. Picture Henk Kruger

Published Mar 22, 2024


Cape Town - Formerly one of the richest men in Africa, Markus Jooste committed suicide yesterday at his Hermanus home a day after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority indicated it would fine him R475 million for his role in the accounting fraud at Steinhoff where he had been CEO.

Jooste was 63.

Last night, in a terse statement, Western Cape police confirmed his death after social media speculation and conspiracy theories abounded earlier in the day.

Police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said: “We can confirm that Hermanus SAPS opened an inquest docket for further investigation following the death of a 63-year-old man earlier today.

“Police were activated to attend to a shooting incident at about 2.40pm at Kwaaiwater Beach in Hermanus. The deceased succumbed to a fatal gunshot wound to the head shortly after arrival at a private hospital. (The) Investigation is ongoing,” said Pojie.

Markus Jooste’s house, which takes up an entire block between 10th and 11th Avenue in Hermanus. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Born in Cape Town in 1961, Jooste rose through the ranks of the business world with a combination of sharp intelligence, undeniable charisma and an ambitious vision for the future.

His early career was marked by significant achievements in the South African corporate sector, leading him to the pinnacle of his profession as the CEO of Steinhoff International, a global retail conglomerate with operations across Europe, Africa and Australasia.

According to sources, Jooste had been informed by the Hawks on Wednesday that he would have to hand himself over to the police today, along with Steinhoff’s former company secretary and head of legal, Stehan Grobler.

Before its liquidation in October last year, Steinhoff demanded that Grobler pay back close to R300 million in salaries, bonuses and incentives.

In its report, the FSCA concluded that Jooste had contributed to the publication of misleading or deceptive financial statements about Steinhoff.

The multinational furniture retail giant was rocked by South Africa’s biggest accounting scandal in 2017, with audit firm Deloitte confirming the accounting irregularities.

The accounting fraud at Steinhoff, which included misrepresentation of its financial status, resulted in severe losses for South African investors.

“The investigation found that Jooste and Dirk Schreiber made or published false, misleading, or deceptive statements about Steinhoff International Holdings Limited and Steinhoff International Holdings NV, which they knew or ought reasonably to have known were false, misleading, or deceptive. Such publication included the omission of material facts,” the FSCA said on Wednesday.

Schreiber, who was chief finance officer for Steinhoff Europe, escaped financial sanctions from the FSCA as he had co-operated with investigations into the company’s accounting irregularities.

The FSCA said due to the extent of Schreiber’s co-operation with the investigation, the FSCA was not imposing an administrative penalty on him.

At one point, Jooste was estimated to be worth $500 million, stemming mostly from his interest in Steinhoff International, which was dually listed in both Germany and South Africa.

With his newly acquired wealth, Jooste invested in the Klawervlei stud farm in Langebaan and agreed to acquire the Lanzerac Wine Estate from fellow billionaire Christo Wiese in exchange for shares in Steinhoff International worth R220m.

When Steinhoff was liquidated, Wiese’s shares evaporated. The deal to sell Lanzerac is the subject of litigation in the Western Cape High Court.

In October, the same court granted an application, brought by the South African Reserve Bank, to freeze the assets of Jooste’s family trust, worth over R1 billion, which housed several assets.

In October last year, Jooste’s son, Michael Jooste, applied to the high court to have the assets unfrozen. SARB had applied to freeze the assets, charging that Jooste had violated exchange control regulations.