Lew Geffen Estates has been sold to Savukazi Properties, owned by Hloniphizwe and Masechaba Mtolo. The sale was announced last week by company founder Lew Geffen, who noted: “This is without doubt among the most significant ownership transfers in South Africa’s real estate industry in recent years.”
Celebrating the deal (from left to right) are Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty CFO Neethesh Haripersad, Sandy Geffen, Lew Geffen, Hloniphizwe and Masechaba Mtolo from Savukazi Properties and Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Yael Geffen.
The implementation date of the transfer is 1 August 2020, at which time Savukazi Properties becomes entitled to any and all licensed franchising privileges associated with Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in the numerous areas of Gauteng currently operated under the global brand affiliate agreement with Lew Geffen Estates. Savukazi Properties will trade under Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty brand as a franchise.
Geffens to stay on as joint CEOs
As part of the deal, Geffen and his wife Sandy, who started Lew Geffen Estates together in 1982, have agreed to stay on indefinitely as joint CEOs, ensuring continuity on behalf of the partnership. They will also become directors of Savukazi Properties.
Lew remains the chairman and owner of Geffen International Realty Franchises (GIRF), the national franchising arm of Sotheby’s International Realty South Africa and Sandy remains the executive director of GIRF. Savukazi Properties will be a formal franchise within the GIRF group.
Hloniphizwe Mtolo is chairman of the boards of the Shell Companies in South Africa, which include Shell South Africa Holdings, Shell Downstream South Africa and Shell South Africa Energy. He is a board member and alternate chairman of SAPREF, a refiner of oil products, and serves on the board of governors for the petroleum products industry body SAPIA, among others.
Hloniphizwe’s wife Masechaba Mtolo is a multi-skilled media personality, a television star and actress, as well as an insightful and analytical current affairs presenter. Among her long list of credits are hosting The Big Question, producing and presenting Motswako, presenting Morning Live and hosting several business and current affairs shows on SAfm, including the prime afternoon drive slot. Hloniphizwe will remain in his current position with Shell South Africa, but will contribute to the Molos’ new venture in a mentoring capacity.
Geffen says the signing of this agreement is a significant milestone for the country’s real estate sector as a whole.
“For years South Africa’s residential property industry has been dominated by a few select privately held brands, which have and are still discussing methods by which to diversify ownership within the sector to achieve meaningful transformation.
“I got tired of talking about it and decided to act.
“Lew Geffen Estates (Pty) Ltd is the heart of the Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty brand; a company with a significant trading footprint across the financial powerhouse of the African sub-continent to which I’ve devoted 40 years of my life and today I’m proud and excited to be handing the foundation of my life’s work to the Mtolo family to take that legacy forward.”
Masechaba Mtolo to focus on new business venture
Masechaba Mtolo, who has reshuffled her professional responsibilities to concentrate on the family’s new business venture, says she is both humbled and inspired to be picking up the real estate baton that the Geffens have refined over decades.
“There’s no perfect time to start anything in business. One can’t wait for the ideal ‘post-Covid opportunity’ or say ‘I’ll start something in 2022’; you have to grab the bull by the horns when the opportunity presents and take the leap.
“Launching Savukazi Properties with the support of the Geffens is an amazing business opportunity and it will be a partnership; a road we walk together. This is us investing in our future as a brand, as a family and as a dynamic employer.”
Adapting to the “new normal”
Masechaba says adapting to the “new normal” of business, focusing on building positives in the private sector and finding meaningful ways to partner with the public sector to effect change are particularly important in periods of global upheaval and uncertainty.
“It’s so easy to let fear overwhelm you. At the beginning of the Level 5 lockdown it was literally the case of wondering whether the real estate industry could operate; could business continue?
“Then the industry adapted; moving to other options like virtual showcasing of properties and finding new and innovative ways to do business. Life and business are about adapting and if we build the right partnerships and create the right opportunities going forward, the future will be bright.”
Geffen noted that all estate agents and administrative staff currently employed by Lew Geffen Estates would be moving into the new enterprise on the 1 August 2020 launch date.