In memory of Allan William Buchanan Gray (8 April 1938 – 10 November 2019)

In memory of Allan William Buchanan Gray (8 April 1938 – 10 November 2019)

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the death of Allan William Buchanan Gray. He died of natural causes on 10 November 2019 in Bermuda, where he lived since 1997. Allan made an immeasurable impact on many lives as an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist in South Africa, and globally.

He has earned his rest.

Allan leaves behind a lasting legacy. He was first known as an exceptional investor, founding the investment firm Allan Gray, and later Orbis. The companies he built had the singular purpose of creating long-term wealth for clients, and successive generations of employees continue to be guided by Allan’s strong values and his philosophy and approach to investing. He saw philanthropy as a natural extension of the impact that the investment business aims to make in people’s lives, spending considerable focus and energy later in his career on philanthropic endeavours.

His last years were spent setting up the Allan & Gill Gray Foundation (the Foundation), to which he donated his family’s controlling stake in the Orbis and Allan Gray groups. All dividends that the Foundation receives are devoted entirely and exclusively to philanthropy. More recently the Foundation established initiatives around the world through which themed contributions are made to causes wherever Allan Gray and Orbis offices are situated. The current programme theme aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, and to promote lifelong learning.

As Allan wrote in his final Chairman’s Letter in 2015: “We consider this both the right thing to do and a small but necessary contribution toward a society full of hope for all humanity. The free enterprise system has done so much for so many, and it behoves the few whom it rewards particularly well to help those less fortunate.”

Allan was a man of quiet dignity, never seeking the limelight for himself. He was bold in his decisions, but always humble in his approach to learning from others. He had genuine respect for all people, inspiring them to find and bring out the best in themselves. He modelled his view that business decisions were usually uncomplicated when viewed against clear values and principles.

Allan always taught that it’s not enough to work on important matters – one must focus on the most important. Yet he insisted that one sweat the details, for unpicking apparently small aspects could often unlock full insight. One of his greatest talents lay in keeping both the “important” and the “detail” in mind at the same time.

His work in philanthropy began in 1979, when he and his wife Gill founded the Allan and Gill Gray Charitable Trust. In 2006 he established the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, to fund bursaries and scholarships for talented Southern African scholars and students, mainly from under-resourced communities, with the specific purpose of developing entrepreneurial talent. He and Gill made donations to fund the Centre for Values-based Leadership at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, and the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes University.

Allan was born in East London, South Africa in 1938. After completing high school at Selborne College, he studied at Rhodes University. He qualified as a chartered accountant and went on to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1965. He then worked at Fidelity Management and Research in Boston, before returning to South Africa in 1973 to found what would become Allan Gray Limited. He set up Orbis in 1989 to focus on global investing, and moved with Gill to Bermuda in 1997. A meticulous planner, he spent a number of years gradually transferring his responsibilities to others, confident that the firms were in excellent hands. He handed over the presidency of Orbis to his son Will in 2000, resigned from the Allan Gray board in 2010 and stepped away from his remaining investment responsibilities at Orbis in 2012, before retiring officially from Orbis in 2016.

Allan’s important legacy is exemplified by the work of the 1,500 employees of the asset management firms he founded, the benefits accruing to their many clients, and the ongoing impact which the philanthropic efforts he founded will continue to have. He made a difference.

Allan leaves behind his wife Gill, their three children Trevor, Jenny and Will together with their spouses Carrie, Buddy and Ali, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Note about the author: Jonathan was an early employee of Allan Gray, joining the firm in 1980, and remains a member of the Orbis group. His relationship with Allan was always personal as well as professional. “Find for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend.” (Talmud)

 

 

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of Allan William Buchanan Gray

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of Allan William Buchanan Gray

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of its Founder and Patron, Allan William Buchanan Gray. Allan was a visionary and successful businessman; a pioneer in the investment sector; a leader and a philanthropist, and these characteristics informed much of his work in securing a future, not only for his investment clients but also for the many beneficiaries of his philanthropic organisations.

In 1984, Allan wrote to the Finance Department of the then South African government asking permission for 20% of the company to be donated to a trust to support Black enterprise. Although unsuccessful at this time, the seed had been planted. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was started in 2005 and funded by a donation of 7% of the taxed profits from Allan Gray Limited alongside an endowment trust capitalised with over R1 billion, that he donated to ensure its continuity.

The Foundation has provided high quality schooling and entrepreneurship education to over 350 Scholars from highly disadvantaged families; with over 450 Candidate Fellows currently receiving tertiary education in universities in South Africa and abroad; and a further 432 having graduated to become Allan Gray Fellows. Additionally, 14,000 high school students have been reached through the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Allan’s vision was of an entrepreneurial, equitable South Africa flourishing with meaningful employment. He believed in the dynamism of high impact young entrepreneurial leaders whose passion, integrity and innovation will be at the forefront of the continuing economic and social transformation of this region.

In turn, Allan provided many individuals the freedom to dream; as he said: “It’s about creating opportunity – a sense of hope for everybody so that people can dream, not a dream that is impossible but a dream that can be realised”.

To this end, he conceptualised a model that would identify, nurture and support young entrepreneurial talent through long term investments in their education coupled with a well thought out comprehensive support programme offering. Allan’s ability to understand systemic issues and create sustainable solutions has been the basis from which the Foundation and his other philanthropic endeavours have grown.

“We at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation feel a deep sense of loss at the passing of Allan, our Founder, and wish his family comfort and peace at this difficult time. The business relationship and personal friendship we shared with him have been a source of enrichment and learning for us all. We shall miss his visionary guidance and quiet leadership greatly,” said Chairman of the Board, Prof. Njabulo Ndebele.

Yogavelli Nambiar, CEO of the Foundation, adds: “While the Foundation mourns his loss, we can be comforted knowing that his vision has secured a future for over a thousand individuals and helped reach thousands more through various entrepreneurship initiatives, research and educator support. The onus now rests with us to continue to carry his vision forward, creating a world where young entrepreneurs create lasting social change within their communities across South Africa. Allan’s spirit of significance and humility will live on in the Foundation and the many young people supported by it.”