‘The Iceman’ Charl Fouche reflects on decades in entertainment finance

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‘The Iceman’ Charl Fouche reflects on decades in entertainment finance

Jan 30, 2024 | Interviews

Charl Fouche describes himself as a Joburg boy. Whenever he has been head-hunted, he makes it clear to recruiters that he is not open to ‘semi-grating’ to another province or even worse, leaving the country for greener pastures.

‘I just love this city’s energy,’ he beams.

Besides loyalty to his city, Charl has also become part of the furniture at Peermont where he today serves as CFO. Actually, given that most furniture is written off after a decade, he has outlasted this class of fixed assets having stayed at the company for more than two decades since joining the group in 2002 after completing articles at PwC.

His first job was financial manager at what was then Caesars Palace. The much older operational staff made it a hobby to try and break him. They even took bets on how many months he would last at the company. ‘I was born in April which makes me an Aries. That’s a fire sign with a fighting character which stood me in good stead back then,’ Charl says.

Those early years on the ‘factory floor’ taught Charl the resilience he needed to cope with several eventful moments in his finance journey at the group. In 2004, his first real accomplishment was taking a leading role in the Initial Public Offering as the group embarked on a listing process at the JSE. He also worked closely with then CFO Anthony Puttergill as the group acquired Tusk Resorts in 2005.

A valuable voice

In 2007, the group was delisted through a leveraged buyout led by the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC). Consequently, there were extremely high debt levels as the deal comprised approximately 90% debt and 10% equity investment. With the Global Financial Crisis occurring a year later, this made the situation even worse with many entities attempting to acquire Peermont as they could smell the blood on the streets.

‘We worked very long nights with Anthony to bring the dollar-denominated debt onshore in 2014. It was a very big achievement and we were able to trade out of the situation by 2017. But then in 2020, COVID-19 hit and it was the first time we had to stop operations. We didn’t even know how to shut the doors of the casino because we had never done it. It was the most stressful time because we didn’t know whether the company would survive,’ Charl recalls.

After the pandemic, Charl Fouche and Nigel Atherton (current Group CEO) put the company’s debt out to tender and they consequently reduced the cost of borrowing significantly which they’ve re-invested in the company resulting in a return to revenues that have surpassed pre-COVID levels.

‘Charl is a pleasure to work with; the areas of his direct responsibility work like clockwork,’ Nigel says. ‘He is a valuable voice and brings sound financial advice to the rest of the business, resulting in far better decision making’

Exposure to top minds

In December 2023, Sun International inked a R7.3 billion deal to acquire Peermont.

‘Like all the other major transactions we have done in the past, the acquisition has been a major workstream involving lawyers, tax teams and bankers. These transactions have exposed me to some top minds in the country which is partly what has made my job at Peermont worthwhile. It has been exciting and fast paced and with each new transaction I have learnt a lot,’ Charl explains.

Peermont resonates with Charl because ‘it is a family business’ and Charl is all about family. He speaks fondly of his mother who advised him to treat everyone, from the cleaner to the CEO, with the same level of respect. Charl is a father of three children and he serves as the chairman of the board at their school.

‘As an introvert, I just wanted to serve on the finance committee to know what’s going on at my kids’ school. But then they asked me to be the chairman which is something I was reluctant to do. I am a numbers guy; my ambition is becoming the CFO of a Top 40 listed company,’ Charl says.

Charl believes in hiring people who are cleverer than him and treating them well. If they have a personal crisis at home, he is more than happy to excuse them from work. His two financial managers have worked for over a decade with him for this reason. ‘I pride myself in treating people with respect and always having my door open for them to speak to me. When you do that, they will always have your back even when the chips are down,’ he explains.

Handling stress

As he approaches his forty-eighth birthday, Charl has learnt to handle stress better. He has mellowed and become as cool as ice during times that would have previously troubled him. This aligns to the nickname he acquired in high school as ‘the Iceman’.

‘In grade 11, my brother and I borrowed money from our parents and purchased four deep freezers. We then started a business of making ice which we would then go selling door to door at shops. It really made me come out of my shell because I had to convince shop owners to buy our home-made ice instead of trading with the bigger established companies. We paid back our parents and went on to make good money,’ Charl recalls.

If he had to pick a different career, Charl would be a financial planner because he began worrying about retirement as far back as 2002. His advice to fellow professionals is to work hard and have the right attitude.

‘I also advise them to always write things down. This has really helped relieve me of stress because I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night anymore worried that I forgot to do something for the CEO. And finally, don’t worry about things you cannot control. If a taxi driver cuts you off, just relax, because there isn’t much you can do about it,’ he concludes.

Favourites

Car – ‘I am not materialistic. Because I have three kids, I drive a dad’s taxi – the VW Kombi. If I won the lotto, I would probably buy an American GMC SUV.

Restaurant – ‘Pomodoro in Morningside’

Food – ‘Chicken curry’

Holidays – ‘The north coast. Besides that, South Africa has so many wonderful holiday sites to offer – from camping in the Kruger to hiking in the Drakensberg to enjoying the scenery in Franschhoek’

Movies – ‘I love the world war movies. I also enjoy sport movies like Any Given Sunday and Top Gun. They have the underdog theme which resonates with me.’

Book – ‘Anton Rupert’s biography’

App – ‘The SuperSport App and Cricinfo.’

Hobby – ‘My kids are my hobby. When they were babies, my wife did all the work and I didn’t have many opportunities to add value in their lives. As they grow now, I spend as much time as possible with them and as a typical accountant, I try and balance the time equally between the three of them.’

 

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