When one thinks of a billionaire, they imagine an individual dripping with gold chains and spotting diamond teeth.
However multi billionaire Stephen Lansdown has no bank notes falling out of his pockets; in fact there is nothing about him that says billionaire.
The Briton’s business ventures have expanded into Botswana which he calls a second home. Just recently he brought a football team he owns Bristol City into the country for a pre-season tournament.
For a man who started his business trading from a bedroom Lansdown can afford to have a smile on his face-literally. Voice staffer Kabelo Dipholo had a chat with him.
KB: Good day Sir and thank you for granting us this interview.
My pleasure, and thank you very much for the opportunity.
KB: Please introduce yourself to The Voice Readers
My name is Steve Lansdown. I’m a 62 year old businessman from Bristol City in Britain. I’m married with two kids, a daughter and son who are both married. I’m an Accountant by profession and have business interests here in Botswana.
KB: I believe by business interests you mean you own a business or some businesses in Botswana. What businesses do you own in the country?
I’m a Director of African Emerging Ventures (AEV); an investment company providing venture and development capital to projects addressing food and energy security.
KB: Interesting! Please take us back to early years as a business man.
Oh yah. It has not been an easy ride. I had my ups and downs as a young Accountant trying to set up a business. My first business was formed in 1981 in my business partner Peter Hargreaves’ front room.
HL or Hargreaves-Lansdown Finacial Services was listed in the UK Stockmarket in May 2007. It is now in the top 100 businesses in the US Stockmarket.
KB: Remarkable, and perhaps something to be expected from a Chartered Accountant.
Laughs. I stepped down as non-executive Director in 2012 but still owns just under 19% of the firm’s shares.
KB: When did you venture into the renewable and food security business?
My business partner and shareholder in AEV Gordon Powel runs Sustainable Tech Investments which specialises on new companies focusing on energy and food supply.
KB: It still does not explain how you ended up setting up a business here. How did you learn about Botswana?
My first business venture in Botswana was through the Tuli Safari Lodge in 2007.
I found out from Financial Times that a share holder in the Safari lodge was selling his shares so I came here to have a look at the place and fell in love with it.
I immediately bought the shares.
KB: What did you love about the safari?
I had never seen anything like it before and I together with my wife fell in love with it. It’s a special place involved in responsible tourism projects.
We are members of Birdlife Botswana and South Africa and have also come up with community projects like Pack for a Purpose which is designed to encourage visitors to use available space in their luggage to bring much needed supplies including pens, pencils and books.
The lodge recently underwent renovations and this year also marks Tuli’s 50th Anniversary, making it one of the oldest photographic safari lodges in Africa.
KB: You also own a football team; Bristol City. Would mind explaining that?
I have to make it clear that I was not always a football fan. My interest developed in 1989 after watching my then six year old son play. In 1996 the club approached me to be their financier and in 2002 I became the club’s Chairman and the major investor.
KB: You have to be very rich to afford a club like Bristol City. Are you a millionaire Mr Lansdown?
(clears throat)..Well you can say that. These days personal information is readily available on the internet, I believe if you Google my name you’ll find a lot of information about what people thinks I’m worth.
KB: Fair enough. With so much money at your disposal are you keen on investing more in the country?
Botswana is a wonderful country to live in, but I have to be honest it not an easy country to invest in; things are happening slowly.
KB: How do you mean?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of potential and I believe with the right attitude Gaborone should be stealing a lot of business from Johannesburg. To achieve that, we need secure power. We can’t keep having power cuts if we want this city to become a business hub. Business is not easy especially when everyone who wants to play thinks its an end game.
KB: Does this mean you have no intention of investing more?
Whether we want to invest more would depend on Botswana’s ability to meet global demands.
KB: Where do you stay when you are in the country?
We have a place in Gantsi, which is one of the nicest villages here. Gantsi has now become our second home after Tuli Safari.
KB: What do you love most about the country?
The people; Batswana are such welcoming and very humble people. Their humility I understand has opened them up to abuse from both foreign and local business people.
KB: You come from a first world country where almost everything is top class. In your opinion is this country ready to host billionaires?
Absolutely. Like I said earlier the people here are very welcoming; no one is following you with cameras as most people here just mind their own business.
You brought fun for football lovers by bringing your team here. This makes me believe you are a fun loving person. Is there any place in the city or country you prefer for your leisure time?
I love the outdoors, that’s probably why I bought Tuli Safari Lodge. I don’t about any night clubs in the city; perhaps you should show me around. (lauhghs).
KB: Thank God its Friday. What do you have planned for the weekend?
This is the part where I should be saying. I would be out with my buddies playing golf, but I’d be lying. I have not played golf in a while and I’m so embarrassed to even say it.