The Lebashe Investment Group, which recently bought Tiso Blackstar Holdings’ media, broadcasting and content businesses for R1.05 billion, has distanced itself from allegations it unduly benefited from a Public Investment Corporation (PIC) loan to buy the media company.
Lebashe chief investment officer Warren Wheatley said the media company was acquired using the company’s resources and profits from their businesses.
But he did say that they received a R700 million loan from the PIC in 2015, which had been repaid.
“We did receive funding from the PIC in 2015 for one transaction of R700 million, which we paid back.
“But this deal was acquired using our resources and profits from our other businesses,” said Wheatley yesterday.
He said Lebashe was aiming to be one of the key players in the digital and content sectors of the media industry.
In April, during the Commission of Inquiry into alleged improprieties at the PIC, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa told the commission the relationship between the directors of Lebashe Investment, Harish General Practitioners and Harith Fund Managers raised questions of a serious conflict of interest.
The group’s board of directors, which included Tshepo Mahloele and Jabu Moleketi, were questioned over their proximity to the Public Investment Corporation.
Moleketi is a former deputy finance minister and a former chairperson of the PIC.
Mahloele is CEO of Harith General Partners and one of the originators of the $630 million (R8.9 billion) Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund. He also previously headed the Corporate Finance and Isibaya Fund divisions of the PIC.
“This may raise questions regarding the basis for the PIC granting a loan to Lebashe when key former PIC individuals control and own Lebashe.
“How was this loan obtained and on what terms?
“Lebashe has gone on to acquire a large share in Capitec Bank, EOH and TSS Capital,” Holomisa said.
The company has refuted the allegations, saying Lebashe’s dealings with the PIC were above board and in line with the relevant corporate governance regulations.
“In the interest of transparency, we previously stated that we are willing to provide access to Mr Holomisa, or any other interested South African, regarding our dealings with the PIC,” said the company in a statement.
Wheatley said they were well aware it would take time to build a proper business model with quality content and good journalism as its key pillars.
“We are under no illusion that print media is a dying business, but people won’t stop consuming news.
“So we hope that in the next three to four years we will be able to build a proper platform to produce good quality content that will draw in readers and this is the perfect vehicle for that,” he said.
The media assets acquired included the Sunday Times, Business Day and Sowetan, among others.