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Outgoing CEO says S.Africa's Naspers to push online business
by Staff Writers
Johannesburg (AFP) Feb 24, 2014

South Africa-based global media conglomerate Naspers -- which holds stakes in China's Tencent and Mail.Ru -- will strengthen its e-commerce operations under its new CEO, outgoing chief executive Koos Bekker told AFP Monday.

"Today we have a whole bunch of e-commerce companies in different parts of the world and we want to develop and stabilise them, make them profitable, and merge some," Bekker said.

Naspers, which has a market capitalisation of $45 billion, has shares in Tencent -- which runs social messaging service QQ -- Russian internet company Mail.Ru, Polish auction site as well as and a host of other services.

The firm announced Saturday that Bekker would step down in April, making way for current Netherlands-based e-commerce head Bob van Dijk.

"There's a whole bunch of work to do and that why we chose someone who was good specifically with e-commerce," said Bekker, 61.

"We're working in parallel for another month."

"He knows e-commerce well, so that part will be the easiest, but of course there are other parts of the business he doesn't know."

Billionaire Bekker took Naspers from an apartheid-era newspaper publisher in the mid-1980s to continental pay-TV innovator, South Africa's first mobile operator and most recently an e-commerce powerhouse.

He will now travel for a year, taking a break from the Naspers board before replacing current chairman Ton Vosloo when Vosloo retires in 2015. Bekker will keep his place on Tencent's board.

"For 22 years I was in control of certain parts of the group," he said.

"Now if poor Bob comes in and I'm still sitting there and he suggests something, everyone will look at me and ask 'What do you think?'

"Then he won't really get the chance to establish himself as a manager, now will he?"

"I've seen that happen too much in my life, so we want to create a clean environment," said Bekker.

Van Dijk, a 41-year-old father of two, previously headed eBay's Germany operations, and was also COO of media group Schibsted.

He holds a Masters degree in econometrics from the University of Rotterdam and an MBA from France's Insead.

Bekker will spend the next year scouting innovations in other parts of the world to implement on his return.

"I want to visit completely new places and lend my ears a bit to the youth. Most innovations in the Internet have come from young people, so I'd like to listen to what they have to say in Korea, or Bangalore in India."

One of South Africa's richest people, Bekker did not earn a salary but instead was paid in Naspers shares which today are worth billions of rands (hundreds of millions of dollars).

Though he relished running the business, a bit of relaxation will be welcome, he said.

"You lie in the bath and worry about what can go wrong. Twelve different things can go wrong, so it will be bliss (not to be CEO anymore)."


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