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Hidden chemist: Anton Rupert

Hidden chemist: Anton RupertWho is he?

An Afrikaner-South African billionaire entrepreneur, businessman and conservationist. One of the founders of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Why is he notable?

Dr. Rupert lived between 4 October 1916 – 18 January 2006 and managed to achieve an astonishing amount in his lifetime (he has a biography published). In 2004, he was voted 28th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.

After dropping out of medical school due to a lack of funds, Rupert earned a chemistry degree at the University of Pretoria, where he also lectured for a short while. Subsequently, he started a dry-cleaning business.

Some time later, with an initial investment of £10 and together with two fellow investors, he started manufacturing cigarettes in his garage, which he eventually built into the tobacco and industrial conglomerate Rembrandt, overseeing its transition to the industrial and luxury branded goods sectors, with Rembrandt eventually splitting into Remgro (an investment company with financial, mining and industrial interests) and Richemont (a Swiss based luxury goods group, which own Cartier jewellery and Montblanc writing instruments). Currently, this business empire encompasses hundreds of companies located in 35 countries on six continents, with combined yearly net sales in the region of $10 billion.

Rupert had also been deeply involved in environmental conservation and his companies have been prominent in funding the fine arts; since 1964 foundations established by Rembrandt have used a part of the group's profits for the promotion of education, art, music and the preservation of historical buildings. Rupert was a founding member of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and it was in his role as the president of the organisation’s South African branch that he took a lead in the creation of trans-frontier parks (also known as trans-frontier conservation areas (TFCAs) or “peace parks”), such as the Lubombo trans-frontier conservation area.

He also played an important role in the South African Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC), a non-profit company whose loans to small and medium-sized businesses have created nearly half a million jobs since 1981. Being openly critical of the apartheid system during that era, both at home and abroad, he has recently been quoted by President Thabo Mbeki as the man who called upon the Apartheid leadership to "do something brave" and create partnership with the black majority in the '80s.