Bill Venter steps down

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 04 Mar 2009

Industry veteran and founder and chairman of Allied Electronics (Altron) Bill Venter has stepped down as chairman of the board.

In a statement notifying shareholders of the change, the investment holding company stated that Venter “on his own initiative and with the approval of the board” has taken up the position of non-executive chairman of Altron.

Venter will take on a mainly advisory role, while remaining the political figurehead of the company. However, Robert Venter, chief executive of the Altron group, says Bill Venter still remains active in the company.

“We don't see much of a change happening. He [Bill Venter] is still a majority shareholder of the business. He is turning 75 this year and, as the transition from first generation to second generation leadership was well established and integrated since 2001 when I took over the position of CE, he thought the time was right.”

Robert Venter adds that no new people - either from within the ranks of the family-owned business or from outside - will be brought into the company, following the change.

The company adds that Bill Venter will continue to serve as a non-executive director and non-executive chairman on various other boards of the Altron group, as well as remain a member of the company's nomination and remuneration committees.

Robert Venter notes that the day-to-day running of the business will continue under the executive committee with him at the helm and adds that Bill Venter will continue to have a say in the company.

“He will continue to have strong input in the strategic decisions of the company, so it really isn't a big change.”

Busy man

Founded by Bill Venter in 1965 as Allied Electric, the company opened its doors as a designer and manufacturer of semi-conductor rectifier equipment, variable-speed drives and electronic signal equipment and transformers, among other things.

Bill Venter has been instrumental in the growth of the company, which currently owns 62% of Allied Technologies and 100% of Bytes Technologies and Powertech. The company also has 14 000 staff locally and internationally, and recorded sales of R21 billion last year.

A UK chartered engineer, Bill Venter has had 44 years' experience in the electronics industry. For his contributions, he was awarded the Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) - an award from the president of SA. He also received honorary doctorates from seven universities, both locally and abroad, recognising his contribution to technology, commerce and industry. He also received the Lifetime Achievers Award from the Sunday Times and, most recently, from the Technology Top 100 awards.

Venter has an MBA and an MPhil in business management. He began his career as a design engineer and then became marketing manager at STC (SA). He left to form the Altron Group when he was 33.

He is also a former chairman of the CSIR, and past director of AMIC and Nedcor Bank. Venter is also a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and a member of the fund's finance committee.

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