South Africa’s Old Mutual Suspends CEO

JOHANNESBURG – Old Mutual Ltd on Friday suspended chief executive officer Peter Moyo over a conflict of interest involving his investment firm NMT Capital.

The insurer’s board, chaired by former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, disclosed his leave hours before the 174-year-old company’s annual meeting with shareholders in Johannesburg. Chief Operating Officer Iain Williamson will serve as acting CEO.

The company said in a statement the dispute led to a “material breakdown in trust and confidence” but that it was “neither the result of performance or financial misconduct.” Moyo told Reuters there was “absolutely no wrongdoing on my part.”

“The question is, what does this mean for Moyo’s future and if he were to leave would that mean a change in strategy,” said Bradley Preston, chief investment officer at Mergence Investment Managers, which owns Old Mutual shares.

Old Mutual fell as much as six percent at the start of trade Friday, paring that loss to 2,4 percent to 21,17 rand by 1:20 pm in Johannesburg. The company’s annual general meeting was scheduled to start at 2pm.

The 56-year-old Moyo has worked in the top tier of South Africa Plc for more than a decade and has led the insurer for a year following the breakup of the group and the sell down of a stake in Nedbank Group Ltd., where he serves as a director.

This isn’t the first time he’s figured in boardroom dramas. In 2016, while chairman at Vodacom Group Ltd, Moyo tried to buy a large stake in the mobile phone company through NMT, his investment vehicle, from Africa’s largest fund manager, Bloomberg previously reported. This deal was later scuppered.

He resigned as CEO of insurer Alexander Forbes Group Holdings Ltd. in 2007 after a disagreement with the board, and had been a board member of Transnet SOC Ltd., the state rail and ports company that’s at the center of corruption claims.

Moyo, who trained as a chartered accountant at KPMG in Zimbabwe and then worked at Ernst & Young, joined Old Mutual in 1997 before moving to Alexander Forbes in 2005.

When Moyo was appointed CEO in 2017, Old Mutual set up a protocol regarding an earlier 291 million rand ($20 million) investment made by the company in Moyo’s NMT Capital.

“Unfortunately the board and Mr Moyo have disagreed materially on how the conflict of interest has been managed, resulting in a breakdown in the required mutual trust and confidence,” according to the company statement. Bloomberg