Sir Donald Gordon
In 1957 Donald Gordon, a Chartered Accountant by profession, founded Liberty Life Association of Africa with initial capital of R100,000. By the time he retired as Chairman of Liberty Life in 1999 after 42 years in that role, the company had a stock market valuation on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange of over Rand 40 billion (£6 billion). At the time Liberty Life was the largest listed Life Company and the third largest life insurance company in South Africa. Liberty Life was also listed on the London Stock Exchange. Sir Donald co-founded the British company Abbey Life Insurance (Abbey Life), Abbey Life has since grown into one of the largest life companies in the UK and is now a major subsidiary of Lloyds Bank.
He was an active director of the Guardian Royal Exchange Group for 24 years from 1971-1994 as well as chairing on their behalf their South African subsidiary, Guardian National Insurance Company for 32 years.
In 1980 Liberty Life created TransAtlantic Insurance Holdings PLC, now Liberty International PLC, and since then Sir Donald has established the company as a £6.2 billion (R75 billion) shopping centre and commercial real estate business. Liberty International is the third largest property company by market capitalisation (£3.2 billion / R39 billion) in the UK, with a capital investment of around £3.8 billion (R46 billion). The assets of the Liberty International Group consist mainly of major shopping centres across the UK (such as Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock, the MetroCentre in Gateshead, Braehead Shopping Centre in Glasgow and further major shopping centres in Newcastle, Bromley, Nottingham, Watford and Uxbridge). Liberty International became a constituent of the UK’s FTSE 100 Index in December 2002 and is ranked in the third quartile.
A South African by birth, Donald Gordon is the creator and financial benefactor of The Donald Gordon Foundation. He has also become a benefactor of British institutions and other charities such as the Royal Opera House, the British Museum, the Welsh Millennium Centre, Sadler’s Wells and The Globe Theatre.
Following his retirement in his 70th year in 1999 as Chairman of Liberty Life, and his retirement as Chairman of Liberty International at the end of June 2005, he resides in London and concentrates on the affairs of the DGF, his other philanthropic and cultural interests and his personal investments.
In October 2000 at the 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards (sponsored by Citibank, The Times, Ernst & Young and Vodaphone) in London Sir Donald received the Entrepreneur of the Year Special Award for Lifetime Achievement. Other awards recognising his career achievements include an honorary doctorate of economic science from the University of the Witwatersrand and an honorary doctorate in commerce from the university of Pretoria. In December 1999 he was cited as “The Achiever of the Century in South African Financial Services” by the prestigious Financial Mail, the leading South African business journal and as Business Man of the Year by the South African Sunday Times in 1968. In June 2005 was awarded a knighthood in recognition of his services to the arts and business.