Harry Oppenheimer, the international gold-and-diamond magnate, presided over the corporate dynasty of Anglo American and De Beers for more than 25 years. Yet, two decades after his death, the Oppenheimer empire is no more. As the political opposition’s key financial backer, the founder (along with Anton Rupert) of the Urban Foundation after the Soweto uprising in 1976, and a ubiquitous philanthropist, Oppenheimer helped propel the process of reform.
Nevertheless, in some quarters he is demonised as the archetype of ‘white monopoly capital’ and scapegoated, along with Nelson Mandela, for the country’s disappointing democratic dividends. In the first, full-scale biography of Oppenheimer, based on unrestricted access to his subject’s private papers and extensive interviews with family members and close associates, Michael Cardo eschews both the corporate hype and the political propaganda to produce a vivid, fully-rounded portrait.
He brings to life the places, people, events and relationships that shaped Harry Oppenheimer’s long and rich career at the intersection of business and politics. Cardo also tackles thorny questions of legacy and Oppenheimer’s complicity with the oppressive racial order of the past.