A former J&B Met and L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winning owner, and a breeder, the 67 year old Hassen Adams has announced that he will be retiring from business life in January.
Adams has served in various board capacities in the racing industry in his time and was South Africa’s first racing steward of colour.
His first venture was Damascus Stud farm. They bred Sleek Machine, which was sold for R500 and nearly won the Durban July.
James Lightheart was his first trainer and brought him his first winner.
“Thatching’s Fire was a filly I owned and she won me six races. I eventually sold her to the Becks. I also, by fluke, bought into Russian Fox and as time went on I got involved with trainers all over the country,” he said in an interview last year.
Adams has cut down his racing interests considerably and both of his former private trainers in Darryl Hodgson and Dan Katz have left the game.
The Cape Argus reports that Adams, as chairperson of Grand Parade Investments (GPI), said earlier this month that he would be retiring in January – leaving a legacy not only of financial astuteness, but of empowering people and community involvement.
It was at the tender age of 8 that Adams, who was born in District Six, started selling the Argus newspaper, then went on to design buildings and renovate grand old ladies such as the gracious Standard Bank building in Adderley Street.
Among the many key positions he’s held or holds is as chairperson of GrandWest Casino Ltd, executive chair of Burger King South Africa, director of Gold Circle, director of Cape Town Fish Market and director of Afriserve.
GPI was also responsible for launching the first Dunkin’ Donuts in South Africa and the first Baskin-Robbins ice creams in the country.
It was in 1997, more than 22 years ago, that Adams started building an empire, when he founded GPI. The founding shareholders (more than 20000 of them), largely from disenfranchised communities, invested seed capital of R28 million.
Hassen, speaking in a frank phone interview, said “that was a meagre R28m. It has paid back more than 150 times. I’m proud of what we could do for people.”
Talking of stepping down, he said: “I have done my job. I have had a major send off at Grand Parade Investments and it’s an amazing feeling to know that I allowed people who were never part of the mainstream economy to be part of it. We established a BEE income before that was a word in our vocabulary and nobody has been denied.”
Earlier this year, Adams was ill with cancer. He has successfully navigated a recovery path.“It’s been a great eye opener and also made me realise I really want to step down.”
Reflecting on a life lived to the full, Adams said he was thinking of writing a book on what he has done and his contributions to communities, while at the same time seeing massive returns on his investments.
The latter has allowed him to own one of the top 10 stud farms, in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, where his horses have been champions in top races.
He also owns a farm overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the West Coast.
But he repeats that it’s his love for people that has made him a “community animal”.
“I’ve enjoyed my journey and my work in the community. Humility is important in my life and I feel you must never act rich; you must act wealthy – to invest in people and be selfless.”
Talking about how he operates, the man with the Midas touch says: “One must delegate authority. At GPI we have a staff of 4 000. I trust them. I don’t deal with smoke – I’m the firefighter. That’s what leadership is all about.”
About challenging new frontiers, he says: “You know life carries on regardless. There’s intelligence and there’s intellect and the issue of thinking outside the box.
“In life one needs largeness – I don’t need negative energy and one needs to always be cognisant of acting unselfishly.”
“I think racing will always be the Sport of Kings. Without the top 10 owners you wouldn’t have a sport. It was difficult in the beginning but I have been relatively successful.”