Photograph — Twitter

One of South Africa’s biggest insurers, Old Mutual, has announced the permanent appointment of Iain Williamson as its Chief Executive officer (CEO) after months of court battles with ousted CEO, Peter Moyo. The announcement was made on Friday, July 3, 2020.

Commenting on Williamson’s appointment Trevor Manuel, Chairman and Independent Non-Executive Director of Old Mutual, said: “His steady hand, strategic mind, and authentic leadership style has been both refreshing and truly welcomed.” Trevor added that Williamson is an actuary by profession and Old Mutual veteran of almost three decades. 

The company’s losses became noticeable when it re-listed in Johannesburg in June 2018. The court disputes with the former CEO which lowered investor confidence, coupled with the prevailing COVI-19 (coronavirus) pandemic have also impacted the company’s growth records. Therefore, Williamson will now be saddled with a huge responsibility of reviving Old Mutual’s performance from a broader perspective. 

Expressing delight over the company’s choice, Jacques Plaut, portfolio manager at Allan Gray, Old Mutual’s No.2 shareholder said that Williamson knows the business very well and he speaks sense. However, he added that “there are definitely some things to fix there, and part of me thinks maybe it needs an outsider to do it, but not necessarily.”

Moyo and Old Mutual Insurance dispute.

In May 2019 the board of directors of Old Mutual, led by Trevor Manuel suspended its CEO, Moyo peter, due to a“material breakdown of trust and confidence” with the board over a conflict of interest in a private equity company Moyo founded. Not long after his suspension in may, Williamson was appointed as the insurer’s acting CEO. 

The insurer accused Moyo of receiving a payment of R30 million from NMT Capital ( an investment holding company founded by Moyo in 2002 which also has one of Old Mutual’s subsidiaries as its only institutional investor). It said that the payment should have been made directly to Old Mutual’s account. This led to the eventual sack of Moyo in June 2019.

After appealing to a Johannesburg High Court, the insurer was ordered to temporarily reinstate Moyo back as ita CEO. The court ruled that Moyo’s dismissal in June 2019 was illegal because Old Mutual did not afford him a disciplinary hearing after accusing him of gross misconduct before firing him. 

But the insurer disobeyed the court’s order, barred Moyo from returning to work and opted to appeal the court’s ruling instead. The company also wrote an open letter to shareholders of their unwillingness to take the fired executive back. Consequently, the board members risked a prison sentence for holding the court in contempt. Early this year, a full bench of three judges held that Moyo had been properly dismissed.

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