Francois van Niekerk, founder of the Mergon group, was announced as the Kaapstad Sakekamer Business Leader of the Year (Sakeleier van die Jaar) 2018, at a recent gala evening hosted in Cape Town.
“Francois is an exemplary leader, and we are honoured to have him as our Business Leader of 2018,” said Karin Pickard Louis, chairperson of Kaapstad Sakekamer after the ceremony.
Mergon is a private investment group that exists to impact lives and equip others to do the same. The group, consisting of Mergon Invest, the Mergon Foundation and Nation Builder, currently holds a portfolio of successful businesses operating in 10 different industries across five continents.
The founding mission of Mergon is to strategically deploy its resources for Kingdom expansion — to reach the un-reached with the good news of Jesus Christ, to see people discipled into a living relationship with God and assimilated into a faith community. From very humble beginnings in 1980, the Mergon Group has grown consistently by an average of 30% per year for more than 30 years.
Part of ‘His story’
“We believe we are part of His story and we are merely stewards in amazement at what He is doing. We are unified in our commitment to surrender our own plans and dreams of success, to walk in relationship with Him, depend on Him and be willing instruments in His hands,” says Francois about the Mergon journey.
Francois’ business journey has been documented in his book, Doing Business with Purpose. The book reflects on the testimony of how God turned a near bankrupt IT company in 1980 into what the Mergon Group is today, after Francois cried out to Him in desperate need.
He made a vow that he would give 30% of the business for the expansion of God’s Kingdom if the Lord averted the crisis. Within half an hour, God turned the situation around and the company was saved. Francois followed through on the 30% commitment by placing the shares in an independent trust, the Mergon Foundation Trust.
In response to Christ’s continued grace, the Van Niekerk family has since sought to increase the Mergon Foundation’s ownership in the group to 70%, a goal that was achieved in 2008.
From these humble beginnings, Francois and the Mergon team went on to establish several successful businesses, including Atterbury Properties and King Price Insurance, in partnership with like-minded entrepreneurs. This approach, together with unmerited favour, has resulted in Mergon achieving sustained above-market returns for nearly four decades.
Mergon Foundation is a 70% shareholder in the Mergon group that allocates funding to Christian ministries and NPOs, for the Gospel to positively impact the lives of countless people. Nation Builder is a Mergon initiative that inspires and equips custodians of capital to enable greater positive social impact.
Hope for SA
Francois’ address on the evening highlighted his hope for South Africa. “The country’s undoubted potential can be unlocked, but only through a radical new approach to leadership and a new form of constructive cooperative governance. Courage, creative thinking and the can-do SA attitude may make the seemingly impossible narrowly possible,” he said. “The question is simply whether we are going to be passive spectators or active change agents?”
Mergon is currently managed by a multi-disciplinary team, bound together by the founding purpose and a shared commitment to a set of core values that has become interwoven in the Group’s DNA over more than 35 years.
“We are delighted for Francois, and we celebrate this well-deserved honour with him and his family,” said Pieter Faure, CEO of Mergon. “It is a privilege to share the Mergon journey with him, as we continue to build on the legacy of his leadership.”
Quoting the philosopher Henry Nouwen, Francois concluded his address with the following words: “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” And also: “Who will I be when I stand before You with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands; and to discover that I am not what I own; but what You want to give me”.