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Engelhard TIME MAGAZINE Corporations: South African Invader Friday, Jan. 27, 1961

Corporations: South African Invader
Friday, Jan. 27, 1961

Operating out of an unpretentious brick building in Newark, surrounded by New Jersey’s malodorous swamps, Charles W. Engelhard, 43, has built himself into one of the most powerful businessmen in South Africa. Last week came his biggest breakthrough: the diamond-and gold-mining aristocracy, headed by Harry Oppenheimer’s De Beers companies, included him in the formation of a giant, $285.6 million investment company, the largest that has ever set up to develop South African industry.
The South Africans could hardly do otherwise. In the last 13 years Engelhard has elbowed his way into control of a vast gold-mining, timber and industrial empire, owns four companies, is chairman of five and a director of six others. Firmly on the inside of an investment preserve once dominated by British companies, he is holding open the door for more Americans to come in. To that end, plans call for listing the shares of the new investment company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Platinum King. Charles Engelhard took over, the family company, Engelhard Industries, Inc., from his father in 1950 and proceeded to build it into one of the world’s largest refiners of precious metals (1959 net: $3,700,000). In the last decade he has expanded his total wealth from an estimated $65 million to more than $100 million. All this has earned him a title he hates: the Platinum King.

Engelhard’s interest in South Africa began after World War II, in which he served as a bomber pilot. He went to Africa to buy gold for his father’s company, became so impressed with the opportunities that he began quietly launching his own ventures. By 1958 Engelhard felt strong enough to set up his $33.6 million American-South African Investment Co., Ltd., listed the shares on the New York Exchange, giving Americans their first opportunity to buy stocks in a South African company on a U.S. exchange. Last week he added to his holdings by agreeing to pay up to $17 million for two gold mines in which Kennecott Copper Corp. had invested $46 million.

The new Engelhard-Oppenheimer investment giant, which will be called Rand Selection Corp., Ltd., is a holding company made up of a combine of six older holding companies, including three controlled by Oppenheimer and one, Rand American Investments, Ltd., owned by Engelhard. Rand Selection’s portfolio will be 44% gold mines, some copper and coal mines, and industrial firms.
Dignity of Man. Engelhard has tried hard to become a part of South Africa’s community and social life. He and his attractive, stylish wife, the daughter of a Brazilian diplomat, entertain as lavishly at their Johannesburg mansion as they do in their New Jersey country estate. He owns racing stables in North Carolina, South Africa and England. He is active in charities of both countries, last year was president of the Johannesburg branch of the South African National Tuberculosis Association and the Somerset Hills, N.J. Community Chest.

The chief risk he sees in South African investments stems from the government’s apartheid policy. Once he made statements indicating that the racial problem in South Africa was no more serious than in the South. But since the Sharpeville riots a year ago, he has increased his opposition. While “you don’t solve a problem by saying you are opposed to it,” Engelhard feels that he is “doing something by pointing out the limitations of the world confidence in South Africa under existing conditions.” He has emphasized to leading South Africans “that for world acceptance, they must begin to realize the dignity of man as a basic concept.” As an outsider, he is reluctant to criticize; but as he becomes more powerful, South Africans are beginning to forget that he has any American ties. Recently, one newspaper lost track completely and called him by the good Afrikaans name of Engelbrecht.

Engelhard is almost as busy in U.S. politics as in business. A big contributor to the Democratic Party, he organized the National Committee of Business and Professional Men and Women for Kennedy and Johnson. After the success he scored with this operation, there is gossip that he may be in line for a high Government post or for the Democratic nomination for Governor of New Jersey. Of these rumors, says Engelhard: “I’m not in search of a new job, as I am quite gainfully and actively employed, but I would give any proposal consideration.”

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