$1.67 bn on the Internet: how Koos Bekker became rich without a paycheck


From prosecutors to marketers

Becker was born in 1952 in the provincial town of Heidelberg in the Western Cape province of South Africa, into a family of farmers. He studied at two universities — Stellenbosch and Witwatersrand, where he studied literature and law. “I received a bachelor’s degree and became a Prosecutor in court, said Becker in an interview with Moneyweb. — Felt like a complete loser: I don’t like blood, and most do not like to argue. So for the first week I realized that the years at University have been wasted. I had to do something and suddenly thought about the business.”

Becker decided to study marketing. The family support he received: his father belonged to entrepreneurship skeptical and was disappointed in the choice of his son. “I became interested in pickles, and in a moment realized that the inhabitant of sea point, most of them Jewish women, like when they are spicy and sweet, and a resident of Newlands as a rule English women, love them Moscow, as, — recalled the businessman. — It was a great inspiration”.

In the early 1980s, Becker went to study marketing in new York. He enrolled at Columbia University, where he engaged in the study of nascent cable television market, and receiving a degree, returned to South Africa.

Together with some colleagues, like him, young professionals, Becker initiated to launch a pay TV channel M-Net. “Anywhere except the U.S., pay-TV was not. We picked up the idea, returned to South Africa and became pioneers together with the French, — shared memories a businessman. — During improvised: here you need to use the same technology, there another, and here you need to fasten the wire chewing gum. But it was exciting, I loved this TV world.”

In 1991, Becker began studying cellular telephony, and soon together with partners started the company MTN, which today is among the leaders of the South African telecommunications market. “Mobile telephony has radically changed society. Imagine how in the 1990s, he worked as plumbers: one went to work, came back to the office, got instructions, went to another, ‘ explained Becker. — Now imagine how he lives now: you’re all the time on the road and don’t see office.”

At the head of Naspers

In 1997, Becker was appointed CEO of Nasionale Pers (a year renamed Naspers). He made a bet on the Internet. According to Becker, in 1995 when the world wide web only appeared in the United States, he could not see her potential. “In 1997 we realized that there is brewing something really big,” the businessman told Moneyweb. Naspers has launched Internet service provider M-Web.

As noted by Bloomberg, in the next few years, Becker has invested in more than a hundred technological companies around the world. Most of these investments went nowhere: online retailers in Africa were closed. “Everyone’s talking about, but if you think about it, it teaches us nothing. If you failed, you can make conclusions and next time, act differently. This is exemplified by our investment in Chinese business in 1997. All of them have failed. One of them, the Beijing Internet provider, we lost $80 million — all of our money,” recalled Becker.

Analyzing the failure, the businessman came to the conclusion that, instead of hiring a lot of Western managers with standard thinking and excessive demands, “find smart entrepreneurs, local people who barely speak English, and to follow them, to Finance, to give advice if they need it”. “Our biggest success in China lies in the fact that we failed so early and so impressive that he’s at peace and was able to change our policy. Perhaps if we succeeded with your first investment that was made, like all the Western companies, the result would have suffered a fiasco,” he said.

In 2001 Naspers bought a 46.5% stake in a little-known Chinese Tencent, engaged in the development of messenger. She was a new player on the market of the country where the Internet was used: the time of the transaction Tencent existed for three years and all this time did not bring profit. Now Tencent market capitalization of $192 billion, the Chinese company successfully develops businesses in markets online media, e-Commerce, social networks, social networks, mobile applications and online games. Messenger, on which she initially worked, called QQ, and at the end of 2015 they used 853 million people a month (plus 5% of the previous year). “They [the Chinese] came from nowhere in the 1990s, and now they are second after the U.S., the most dynamic market in the world. Major players such as Baidoo, Tencent and Alibaba, are pretty good on their feet,” said Becker.

Success on the Chinese online market has allowed Becker to look to other emerging markets. In March 2008, Naspers bought for $1.88 bn the Polish Internet auction Allegro, which manages over 100 associated with e-Commerce sites in Central and Eastern Europe. And in 2007 — 30% shares Mail.Ru Group for $165 million As reported on the website of the Russian company, in April 2015 Naspers controlled 27.6 per cent through its holding company MIH, 7,4% owned by Tencent. On March 31 capitalization Mail.Ru Group accounted for $4.8 billion In October of 2015 Naspers announced his intention to become the largest shareholder of the largest Russian online classified site Avito by buying back $1.2 billion shares of several shareholders: as a result, the share of Naspers in Avito is expected to grow from 17.4 to 67.9%. According to TNS Russia, in February 2016 Avito was the eighth most popular website in the Internet with a monthly audience of 25.7 million people.

Director without the salary

Being the CEO of Naspers, Bekker has not received a salary. According to him, in may 2015 led portal Techcentral, he chose the following conditions: refused to pay and was ready to leave during the day without the right to compensation, but in exchange received generous stock options Naspers.

In April 2014, Becker resigned as CEO of Naspers, taking leave for a year and went to travel. In April 2015 he returned to the office of Chairman of the Board of Directors without Executive powers. A month later, in a conversation with Bloomberg Becker explained that the company has the task “to find countries where there is still space for growth, since a lot of good opportunities already lost”. He wants to prove that Naspers is not just a giant venture Fund, fully built on a single “shot” of Chinese investment.

What else bought Naspers

Within the expansion areas of e-Commerce Naspers has focused on emerging markets, in particular India, Russia, China, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

In particular, in September 2009, Naspers bought a 91% stake in Brazilian online retailer BuskaPe for $273 million as at the end of March it occupied the 50th place in the list of 500 most popular websites in Brazil, according to Alexa.

In April of last year, Naspers invested $40 million in Brazilian Movile platform that develops mobile applications.

In 2012, the company acquired the shares of the Czech Netretail SRO, and Internet Mall AS, and 70% of Romanian online retailer eMag.

From 2012 to June 2015 Naspers has invested a total of $495,5 million in India’s largest online retailer, Flipkart, in June its share in the company was 15,83%. In India Naspers forced to compete with Amazon, which plans to invest$2 billion in promotion in this market. Another site where South African investing conglomerate — tourism GoIbibo, they fight for customers with such giants as Google and Kayak.