Seardel’s boss is satisfied, but investors are less so.

Aaron Searil will probably soon be relinquishing control of the company he founded four decades ago, as Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) prepares to take a controlling stake in the clothing and textile manufacturer.

Searll says he is departing with “a sense of satisfaction, in a way” — after building Seardel up into southern Africa’s biggest clothing and textile company, employing 15 000 people.

Of course, Seardel once employed far more workers, and it’s likely that those who have departed will join the many minority shareholders who are not quite as satisfied about the state of the company. One former institutional shareholder is quite blunt: “The company’s been grossly mismanaged by Aaron Searil.

” Seardel’s in-house travel agent and a Plettenberg Bay house, billed as a design studio, were among the extravagances that kept tongues wagging.

To be fair, the company’s property portfolio has been reduced in recent years, boosting earnings, and Searll can’t be blamed for a deteriorating trading environment for local clothing and textile manufacturers, or for strong competition from China that has hurt the local industry.

But his management style has not enamoured the market to him.

Although he remains at Seardel as non-executive chairman and will remain a significant shareholder, some in the market believe his departure from the chief executive’s post means he has “effectively been fired”.

Searil interprets it a little differently: “There comes a time when you have to hand over the baton.”

Source: Business Watch