There’s always something about a Gore that makes for a compelling story, something that makes the day of a raconteur, and as well sets food on his table.  Sometimes one is tempted to reason that Gores are God’s favourite creations; sent especially to the world to carry the cross of fellow humans in their own disparate ways. And easy as it may seem to dismiss such insinuation with a wave of the hand, to brand it as one of those many religious theories that hold no water, some of those who have borne the name have left impressions that are anything but easy to discard.

Perhaps the most popular Gore was that who served as the 45th United States (US) vice president between 1993 and 2001 under President Bill Clinton; the one who devoted 24 years of his life to the people, having earlier represented Tennessee in the US House of Representatives (from 1977 to 1985) and then in the US Senate (from 1985 to 1993); the one who was the Democratic Party’s nominee for the US 2000 presidential elections and won popular vote by a margin of more than 500,000, even if he eventually lost out to Republican George Bush after the US Supreme Court, for the first time in the country’s democratic history, determined the outcome of a presidential election by ruling the Florida vote recount 5-4 in Bush’s favour; the one who founded many non-profit organisations, including the Alliance for Climate Protection; the one who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his climate change activism; the one who is the co-founder and chair of Current TV, who sits on the board of Apple Inc. and is a senior adviser at Google. Al Gore, he was simply known as. But his father had named him Albert Arnold Gore Jr.

A second Gore, this time a South African, mirrors the prayer of most African parents: to have their children’s greatness outshine theirs. His son barely falls short of being worshipped in his country of birth. But as at 2007 when he was already over 70, the septuagenarian still managed to grab a measure of national headlines for himself, when it was revealed that he was still studying Biology, despite having bagged “a number of degrees” earlier. At that age! And the old man once said that the only reason he worked was to put his children through school, else he would have remained a student all his life!

As it turned out, old Gore was right to have worked to educate his children, as one of them, Adrian, is currently one of South Africa’s most adored chief executive officers. First, he studied at the University of  Witwatersrand (Wits), graduating with a B.Sc. (Honours) in Actuarial Science. Then in 1990, he was admitted as a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries (Edinburgh), and in 1992 as an Associate of the Society of Actuaries (Chicago).

It was in that same 1992 that he founded his company, Discovery Health, which has gone on to become South Africa’s largest medical aid administrator, catering to the healthcare needs of more than 218,000 companies and 2.5million individuals. It is the pioneer of reward-based healthcare system, for which it holds a worldwide patent. Adrian is also the CEO of Discovery Holdings Ltd. and Chairman of both Destiny Health Inc. in the USA and Prudential Health Limited in the UK.

And his business success has attracted recognition from within and beyond his native South Africa. In 1998, he was named South Africa’s Best Entrepreneur in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and was voted the most admired individual in medical aid and health insurance by the Professional Management Review. Two years later, he was voted as winner of the South African Jewish Business Achiever Award. In 2004, he won the Moneyweb CEO of the Year Award; while in 2010, he was named the Sunday Times Business Leader of the Year. And to cap it all, he is Africa’s 34th

Richest man, a position he attained at age 47, at a worth of $280million. As it is with every other great African, Adrian’s life is replete with lessons, particularly for the younger generation of prospective and fledgling business owners.

Adrian, for one, has paid the price. He laid the foundation for his business future at Liberty Life, which he recalls was a fantastic company where there was “coalescing” of his “creative juices” while he learnt the ropes of institutional management. He describes the process as vital.  “I was there for around six years, ending up heading product development,” he says. “I learned the importance of producing sexy, exciting products and [having] pride in your product.”

He has learnt to make money the easiest possible way: carving out a money-making dimension from one’s passion. Adrian, knowing himself to be “obsessed with staying fit,” he has easily gone on to build Discovery into a company that simply passes the passion
on to millions of people, now providing health and life cover to over 4.5m people across South Africa, the UK, the US and China. In the UK, it owns 75 percent of PruHealth and PruProtect in a venture with Prudential.

Very importantly, Adrian hasn’t shied away from taking risks. In 1992, at a time when Discovery was in its nascent stage and South Africa’s future seemed uncertain and doomed, he approached Rand Merchant Bank, which had inherited a dormant life insurance license. After a few meetings, the bank granted him R10m in seed capital — an investment that has proved a win-win situation for the parties. While Adrian’s business has flourished; nearly 20 years on, Rand Merchant Insurance retains 25 percent stake in Discovery, which boasts a market capitalisation of about R25 billion ($3.1 billion). In the financial year to June 2011, the group’s gross income rose 44 per cent to R17.85 billion ($2.2 billion), while its profit before tax was up 38 per cent to R3.45 billion ($422 million).

What more? His leadership style has been described as characterised by astuteness, competitiveness, tenacity and drive. But his one all-encompassing strength is offered by Allan Pollard, CEO, Discovery Vitality: “[Adrian Gore] has an obsession with being the best.” And it is that positive obsession that has propelled him to the status of Africa’s 34th richest man that will equally prosper anyone who will back it up with action.

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