Retail tycoon Christo Wiese – the major shareholder in Shoprite and Pepkor – has re-established links with Martin Wragge, best known for being the prime mover behind the Century City and Canal Walk developments.
Last month Wragge was appointed to the board of Tradehold, a Wiese controlled investment company that specialises in property development and financial services.
Wiese backed Wragge’s Monex property company in the late nineties to develop the Century City precinct – including the Canal Walk shopping centre and Ratanga Junction theme park. The property development certainly did not make Wiese rich as an indebted Monex gave up the asset rather meekly to BoE (subsequently taken over by Nedbank). But Wragge’s stands strong today.
The timing of Wragge’s appointment to Tradehold is intriguing as the company has veered away from its strategy of buying (and in some cases redeveloping) under-valued or neglected shopping centres in the UK. Last month Trade hold bought a portfolio of properties scattered through a handful of African countries, which no doubt have development potential.
With Wiese’s flagship retail interests Shoprite and Pepkor shifting rapidly into African markets, Wragge’s role as a retail property developer could be key.
Many regarded Wragge sceptically when Century City/Canal Walk was developed. Initially there were even suggestions the development could become a ‘white elephant’ – although recent years have shown that Wragge’s intuition was spot-on. For instance, Hyprop – the owner of Canal Walk – accords the popular shopping precinct a value of many more times what it originally paid for the property in 2003.
Wragge – who also developed the Tyger Valley shopping centre in the mid-eighties - has not stood still since parting ways with Century City/Canal Walk. He headed up Leisure Retail Property Solutions, which was involved in some substantial property developments in China.
Wragge’s new African safari should be most interesting to monitor.
By Jenni McCann