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South African Billionaire’s Fortune Plunges More Than $2 Billion In A Day Amid Accounting Scandal

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Christo Wiese

The acquisitive plans of South African retail king Christo Wiese took a hit Wednesday when Steinhoff, the retail conglomerate he chairs, said its chief executive Markus Jooste had resigned amid accounting irregularities. It’s a major reversal of fortune for Wiese, 76, and Steinhoff, which has recently expanded its business across Europe and America.

Steinhoff shares have fallen more than 60% in a day, erasing $2.3 billion from Wiese’s fortune. He’s now worth an estimated $1.49 billion, according to Forbes Real Time Rankings. That’s down more than $4 billion from March 2017, when he was worth $5.6 billion.

Going forward, Steinhoff has tapped PwC to investigate the accounting irregularities, and with Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste out, Wiese will temporarily become Steinhoff’s executive chairman.

Since 2016, furniture and home good retailer Steinhoff has done more than half a dozen deals, including the acquisition of US-based Mattress Firm. Steinhoff is a part of Wiese’s discount retail empire, which the South African has been building since the 1970s, as a 2016 profile of Wiese in Forbes magazine details.

Wiese first joined the ranks of the Forbes Billionaires in 2011, with a net worth of $1.6 billion. His fortune rose as high as $6.3 billion in March 2015. In December 2015, Wiese moved Steinhoff’s listing from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange to concentrate more on the European market.

The retail king made headlines in 2009  after U.K. customs officials detained him at London City Airport with two suitcases filled with nearly $1 million in cash. They seized it, suspecting illicit origins. The British and South African press picked up on the incident – apparently suspecting Wiese had been nabbed for money laundering – and were further emboldened by Wiese’s stubbornness in fighting for the funds’ return and his insistence that the amount was “insignificant.” (The Daily Mail’s gleeful headline: “It’s Just Peanuts to Me.”) The government ended up returning the money to Wiese – interest attached. Wiese wouldn’t talk publicly about it.

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Tesla Vehicles Could Soon Become Completely Autonomous As Self-Driving Tech ‘Very Close’, Elon Musk Says

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Tesla vehicles could soon be completely autonomous as CEO Elon Musk said the electric vehicle firm is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology, during a virtual appearance at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai.

KEY FACTS

  • “I’m extremely confident that level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said.
  • He added that he is confident “basic functionality” for level 5 complete autonomy will be achieved this year.
  • The technology will allow vehicles to drive on roads without driver input.
  • Tesla, the world’s highest-valued carmaker after overtaking Toyota last week, already operates an Autopilot system that uses external cameras, radars and sensors, but it is driver assisted and does not make the vehicle autonomous.

KEY BACKGROUND

Tech firms, including Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo, have pumped billions into developing self-driving cars, a futuristic idea that many had predicted would be ready by this year. But limitations around AI have stalled development of the technology. Last month, Waymo and Volvo announced they were teaming up to develop driverless cars for ride-hailing use.

TANGENT

In February, the National Transportation Safety Board found Tesla’s autopilot driver assistance was likely to blame for a fatal 2018 crash in California, leading to the board calling for more regulation of the technology, and for the company to better educate drivers on its limitations.

ADDITIONAL INFO

The road to completely autonomous driving has five levels: Level 0 describes no automation i.e. everyday cars. Level 1 represents features such as adaptive cruise control, while level 2 describes partial automation features that control speed and steering, such as those seen in Tesla vehicles. Level 3 and 4 represent limited driverless capabilities. Level 5 is the point at which a driverless vehicle can navigate all road conditions without human input, according to True Car.

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Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian Endorse Kanye West Running For President

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After years of hints, Kanye West formally announced he is running for president this year in a challenge to Trump, who he once supported, and Democratic rival Joe Biden, winning support from his friend and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

KEY FACTS

  • Rounding off his Fourth of July, West tweeted on Saturday night: “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION.”
  • Musk tweeted in response: “You have my full support!”
  • Wife Kim Kardashian also publicly pledged her support, retweeting West’s statement and adding a U.S. flag emoji.
  • West’s announcement follows years of hints that he would run for office this year which he later postponed to 2024, after publicly declaring at a Fast Company event in 2019: “When I run for president in 2024…We would create so many jobs! I’m not going to run, I’m going to walk.”
  • But the rapper, who recently inked a 10-year deal with Gap through his Yeezy brand, is reportedly yet to file any paperwork to get on state election ballots, while he has missed the deadline for states including Texas, New York, and Indiana.
  • It is not known how serious West’s intentions are this time around, however, he still has time to file as an independent candidate across most states, according to Ballotpedia.
  • West’s declaration was met with skepticism on social media, while some commentators pointed out that it could work out in Trump’s favour.

KEY BACKGROUND

West’s declaration suggests the rapper is looking to cement political ambitions he has expressed throughout Trump’s presidency. West previously forged alliances with Trump, and was pictured in the Oval Office in 2018 wearing a signature Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ cap. He once called the president his “brother” and previously hit back at criticism towards his support for Trump, likening the backlash to racial discrimination. Although he says he didn’t vote in 2016, West later said he “would have voted for Trump”, and earlier this year doubled down, suggesting he would vote for him in November. But that could very well change given Saturday’s announcement.

American rapper and producer Kanye West embraces real estate developer and US President Donald Trump in the White House’s Oval Office, Washington DC, October 11, 2018. West wears a red baseball cap that reads ‘Make America Great Again,’ Trump’s campaign slogan. (Photo by Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

TANGENT

West and Musk were pictured together on July 1st, with West tweeting: “When you go to your boys [sic] house and you’re both wearing orange.”

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Quote Of The Day

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We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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