What Do You Know About Koos Bekker, Founder of MTN, DSTV and MNET?

Koos Bekker was born in South Africa on 14 December 1952. Bekker got his early education from Hoër Volkskool Heidelberg and degrees from Stellenbosch University in Law and Literature and Wits University in Law. During his studies in Stellenbosch he stayed in Eendrag Manskoshuis.

After a few years in advertising he read an MBA degree at Columbia Business School, graduating in 1984. As a result of a project paper, he, and a few young colleagues founded one of the first two pay television services outside the US. M-Net and its sister companies like Multichoice eventually expanded to 48 countries across Africa. In the 1990s, he was a founding director of mobile communication company MTN. In 1997 Bekker became CEO of Naspers, one of the initial investors in the M-Net/Multichoice group. Naspers bought out the other shareholders. During his tenure, the market capitalization of Naspers grew from about $1,2 billion to $45 billion. His compensation package was unusual in that for fifteen years as CEO he earned no salary, bonus or perks. He was compensated solely via stock option grants that vested over time. 

Koos Bekker is revered as an astute executive who transformed South African newspaper publisher Naspers into a digital media powerhouse, primarily due to his 2001 bet on Chinese Internet and media firm Tencent. In 2001 Naspers Ltd. put $32 million into the then-obscure Web company called Tencent. Its stake today is worth $66 billion — roughly equal to Naspers’ entire stock market capitalization. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015. Over the summer of 2015 he sold more than 70% of his Naspers shares. His Babylonstoren estate, which features architecture dating back to 1690, stretches across nearly 600 acres in South Africa’s Western Cape region and includes a farm, orchard, vineyard, a 14-room hotel and a restaurant.

Bekker has always played a significant role at Naspers (formerly Nasionale Pers – National Press) leading the founding team of M-Net in 1985.

By extension, under his leadership, he pioneered the development of M-Net, Supersport, MultiChoice’s satellite television as well as M-Web – and subsequently directed Naspers from a small media company, to a multinational media giant with diverse media interests in many markets.

Naspers has interests in Internet, pay-TV, magazines, newspapers, books and private education, as well as investments in China, India, Russia and other countries across the globe.

Bekker headed massive investments into emerging market Internet companies which, in recent fiscal years, have been paying off for the media company, with massive profits and returns to investors.

These investments include stakes in China’s Internet and instant messaging leader Tencent Holdings; Russian Internet giant Mail.ru; and Brazilian magazine publisher Abril.

Bekker has not only been involved in the South African media landscape, but has also been a part of other growing and significant sectors of the country.

He was a founding director of Africa’s largest mobile network operator, MTN, which was established in 1994, and continues to serve as director for Media24 and MultiChoice.

Bekker was also a director for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee.

He is married to the editor of South Africa’s Elle Decoration magazine, Karen Roos, with whom he renovated Babylonstoren – a sweeping 560 acre wine estate in the Drakenstein Valley.


Sources: forbes.com/ mybiohub.com/ businesstech.co.za/ bloomberg.com

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