Home » South African tycoon Markus Jooste, once worth $400 million, dies by suicide

South African tycoon Markus Jooste, once worth $400 million, dies by suicide

Jooste found dead after facing $25.2-million fine for misleading investors

by Omokolade Ajayi
Markus Jooste

South African businessman Markus Jooste, a central figure in one of the country’s largest corporate scandals, has been found dead at the age of 63 in what appears to be a suicide. Jooste’s death comes after years of legal battles, financial penalties, and personal turmoil stemming from his involvement in the Steinhoff scandal.

Jooste, the former Steinhoff CEO with a reported net worth of $400 million in 2015, died by suicide on Thursday at his residence in Hermanus, South Africa. The news sent shockwaves through the country’s business community, marking a tragic end to a once-prominent career.

Steinhoff’s $20-billion wipeout: Accounting fraud that destroyed a retail giant

Jooste rose to prominence as the CEO of Steinhoff, a multinational retail giant, where he played a pivotal role in transforming the company into a major player in the global market. However, his reputation was tarnished when allegations of accounting fraud surfaced, leading to a dramatic downfall for both Jooste and Steinhoff.

The scandal, which unfolded over several years, involved accusations of balance sheet fraud and false financial reporting. In March 2021, Jooste and three of his colleagues were charged by German prosecutors in connection with fraudulent activities dating back to 2010. These charges further escalated the legal troubles facing Jooste and added to the mounting pressure on Steinhoff.

The repercussions of the scandal were severe, resulting in significant financial losses for investors and employees alike. Steinhoff’s market capitalization plummeted from $25 billion to a mere $4.5 million, ultimately leading to its delisting from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in October 2023.

Jooste found dead after facing $25.2-million fine for misleading investors

Jooste’s personal life also came under scrutiny, with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) imposing a record fine of R475 million ($25.2 million) for his role in publishing false and misleading financial statements. The fine, announced just days before Jooste’s death, further compounded his legal and financial troubles.

The circumstances surrounding Jooste’s death remain under investigation, with authorities confirming that he was found with a gunshot wound to the head. While initial findings suggest suicide, police have opened an inquest docket to explore all possible explanations.

In a statement to the media, Lt-Col Malcolm Pojie of the Hermanus police confirmed the tragic incident, stating, “Our members were called out to a scene at a beach in Hermanus, where a 63-year-old man [suffered a] gunshot wound to the head. He was still alive at the time; he was transported to the hospital, and he succumbed a few minutes after arrival at the hospital. An inquest docket was opened by Hermanus police for further investigation; no foul play is suspected at this time.”

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