Billionaire Johann Rupert’s Golf Estate Battles Municipality in South Africa

Leopard Creek Golf Estate, owned by South African billionaire Johann Rupert, is preparing for another round of litigation with the Nkomazi municipality. The Supreme Court of challenge (SCA) has scheduled a hearing on August 27, 2024, to hear the municipality’s challenge over the estate’s valuation.

The dispute stems from a large disparity between the municipality’s initial assessment of R1.5 billion ($82.6 million) and Leopard Creek’s counter-valuation of R330 million ($18 million), which is supported by independent experts. In 2023, the Mpumalanga High Court ruled with Leopard Creek, causing the municipality to file an appeal with the SCA.

Rupert argues that Nkomazi’s recent significant rate hike has imposed a financial burden on Leopard Creek, which administers utilities and infrastructure separately. He also accuses the municipality of harming potential hotel development in the Kruger National Park-adjacent region by attempting to exploit current members.

David Nagle, a property specialist who represented Leopard Creek in court, emphasized the market’s glut of golf estates, resulting in discounted property sales. However, he contends that while golf courses may not generate direct profits, they considerably increase the value of nearby houses inside the estate.

Leopard Creek, founded in 1996 by South Africa’s richest man Johann Rupert, covers 360 hectares and features 251 home plots with great riverfront and Kruger National Park vistas. This exclusive estate cultivates a close-knit community of golf lovers.

Rupert, worth $13.6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is mostly wealthy from Richemont, where he owns 6.26 million “A” shares and 522 million “B” shares. He owns 50 stands in Leopard Creek, each with four memberships, while Leopard Creek Investments has 47 non-purchasable stands.

Leopard Creek hosts the annual Alfred Dunhill Cup and boasts an 18-hole golf course built by Gary Player, a 3,600-square-meter clubhouse, 97 home sites, tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool, and a gym.

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