South African billionaire Phuthuma Nhleko, the man who famously led MTN Group on an acquisition spree that turned the telecommunications operator into Africa’s largest mobile telecom company, has stepped down from its board of directors.
According to a news report by TechCentral, Nhleko, who has served as MTN’s chairman for several years after relinquishing the CEO role in 2011, resigned this week as non-executive chairman. Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas has replaced him in the role.
In an announcement to shareholders, MTN CEO Rob Shuter applauded Nhleko’s “grit and determination” that saw MTN Group grow to one of Africa’s largest companies.
The statement added that Nhleko thanked the directors for their contributions.
“He wished the entire MTN Group family the very best in continuing to etch a Pan African vision, and mentioned that there is still a lot to be achieved and celebrated in the future,” the announcement stated.
In 2006, Nhleko led the $5.5 billion acquisition of Investcom – a landmark transaction that took MTN into many new markets in Africa and Middle East and helped it grow its subscriber base to over 200 million customers. He was also instrumental in MTN securing a lucrative license to operate in Iran.
Nhleko briefly took over the executive leadership of MTN when former CEO Sifiso Dabengwa quit after Nigerian regulatory authorities slapped a $5.2 billion fine on the company’s Nigerian operations over the failure to register Sim cards.
Nhleko will possibly be spending more time tending to Pembani Remgro, a resource, cement and energy-focused investment holding company. Nhleko co-founded Pembani in 1994 start-up black economic empowerment company. But over the years it has snowballed into a resource, cement and energy-focused investment holding company with investments in blue chips such as agricultural trading company ETG, alternative energy company Lumos Global, and RSAWEB, an internet service provider.
Apart from Pembani Remgro, Nhleko serves as a non-executive director on the boards of BP Plc and Anglo American Plc. His past directorships include the Nedbank Group, Old Mutual SA, Johnnic Holdings, the Bidvest Group and Alexander Forbes. He holds a BSc in Civil Engineering from Ohio State University and a Master of Business Administration from Atlanta University.