One of South Africa’s wealthiest individuals, Eric Ellerine, the visionary founder of Ellerines — a prominent furniture retail company in South Africa — passed away on Monday morning at the age of 90.
The news of his passing, confirmed by close family friends, has cast a somber mood over the business community—prompting reflections on Ellerine’s profound impact on the South African economy and his enduring legacy in the retail sector.
Eric Ellerine’s legacy: From teen entrepreneurship to market mastery
In 1950, at the age of 16, Ellerine embarked on an entrepreneurial journey that would shape South Africa’s business landscape. With just £106 in savings, Ellerine founded the first Ellerines store in Cyrildene, Johannesburg. Joined by his younger brother — Sydney two years later — the Ellerine brothers set the stage for a transformative journey.
The turning point for Ellerines came in 1969 when the company became a listed entity on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Over the following five decades, the Ellerine brothers transformed Ellerine Holdings into one of South Africa’s leading furniture retailers.
Upon their retirement from active management in 2000, Ellerines comprised hundreds of stores across Southern Africa, organized into five store brands catering to various market segments. These included Ellerines, Town Talk, FurnCity, Bears, Lubners, Geen and Richards, Dial-a-Bed, Mattress Factory, Furniture City, Wetherleys, Osiers, and Roodefurn Manufacturing.
The Eric Ellerine Trust’s financial legacy, from JSE ventures to iconic properties
Following the share sale in Ellerine Holdings, Ellerine established the Eric Ellerine Trust as his family office, focusing on johannesburg Stock Exchange investments, property, and private equity — the trust owns iconic properties like Canal Walk in Cape Town, The Glen in Johannesburg, and the Fourways Crossing Centre.
Ellerine’s daughter, Dionne Ellerine, now manages the family office, overseeing a diverse portfolio that includes Canal Walk Shopping Center, Fourways Crossing Center, The Glen Shopping Centre, and the 35 Lower Long Office Building (Cape Town CBD).
The passing of Ellerine signifies the end of an era, prompting a reflection on the mark he left on South Africa’s business scene. His legacy, shaping the nation’s furniture retail industry, will be remembered for generations, contributing significantly to economic growth.