Mark Lamberti is one of South Africa’s most highly regarded entrepreneurs. Sven Forssman from Kela Securities hosted a private dinner at the Grill House in Sandton on the 15 February where Mark Lamberti was the guest speaker. Mark had an extraordinary and relatively rare opportunity of managing three public companies in three different sectors at three different points of their life cycle.

The first was the one that Mark left 16 years ago. He took 19 years to build it from 6 stores to over 300 stores which was eventually sold to Walmart, one of Americas biggest investments in South Africa.
Shortly after that Mark moved into financial services , this was a big change moving from retail to financial. With various challenges that required intervention it took 5 years to make this public. There was a very interesting corporate dynamic here, where the controlling shareholders on top were the subordinates in the organisation structure.

Mark left this and at the age of 64 he took on Imperial. When Mark became CEO of the group it employed about 52 000 people, in 42 countries and he decided the best way he could use his first 100 days was to go meet senior people in their offices wherever that may be. With a list of the top 80, Mark went to meet them in their offices and conducted fairly lengthy interviews. At the end of that process a few other names came up, in total Mark landed up interviewing 118 people. These interviews gave insight into the staff and this lead to the unbundling of the business over the next 4 years.

When taking on the position at Imperial Mark relinquished his salary and donated it towards the tertiary education of underprivileged female employees who fell into a certain bracket. This lead to the interest in education from the family as seen today.

Mark is on the board of governors at Wits amongst other educational institutions. He is currently coaching a chairman and two CEOs at public companies and is involved in their own institution where their 200th child is being put through tertiary education this year. Marks considers this one of his most gratifying events in his life. Check book charity is not the way go , rather getting to know the people and their needs is what Mark has taught his two children.

During the pandemic some time had freed up in Marks diary and he decided to do a doctorate in Business Administration which he is at the tail end of completing . The focus being the way retired CEOs of public companies evolve new identities after their retirement.

Mark is an Italian citizen as well as a South African citizen, he lives half of the year in Italy where he and his wife of 44 years enjoyed the country side and growing 8 hectares of olives before her passing in 2022. Mark was a professional musician for 4 years , playing the piano and up until recently he was a keen helicopter pilot.
In the words from Mark, “Wisdom passes when the receiver is ready – not the giver “.

by Marion Kate