91 Stories of hope

01. Raymond Ackerman

In the first of our series of profiles celebrating extraordinary South Africans, we pay tribute to legendary retailer Raymond Ackerman (1931 – 2023).

21 Sept 2023

2 minutes

Raymond Ackerman

Raymond Ackerman, the visionary behind the incredible growth of Pick n Pay, one of South Africa’s largest supermarket chains, built his business on the philosophy of ‘doing good is good business’. He passed away at the age of 92 on 7 September 2023.

Ackerman was famously fired from food retailer Checkers at the age of 35, and used his severance pay and a bank loan to buy four stores in Cape Town trading as Pick ‘n Pay.  Today, the business serves millions of customers in more than 2 000 stores.

“Doing good is good business. If we rebuild our economy on this basis, our future will be secure.”
- Raymond Ackerman

Ackerman was one of the first retailers to fight on behalf of South African consumers against the apartheid state’s monopoly on basic goods, and also drastically reduced the cost of essentials like bread, milk and chicken. He spoke out against VAT being levied on  basic essentials, a battle he eventually won on behalf of the poor.

After dedicating 43 years to the company, he retired in 2010.

According to his close friend, Hugh Herman, former CEO of Pick n Pay and former chair of Ninety One, Ackerman changed the way people operate in business. “He was fair and honest in all his dealings. Raymond had tremendous courage in challenging the market and government of the time. His big obsession was always to give people a good deal.

“His position in life enabled him to walk with captains and kings – which he did – but he also mixed with the common people. When I [did walkabouts] with him at Pick n Pay, I was intrigued by the sheer number of people who wanted to touch and to talk to him – from staff to customers. 

“Ackerman left a giant legacy of wanting to do good and wanting to help others.”

Ackerman advanced causes worth promoting, challenged power where challenge was due, and was among the entrepreneurs who created opportunity not just for generations of employees and their families, but also for investors, savers and pensioners.

A great and decent man. May he rest in peace.

Important Information

This communication is provided for general information only should not be construed as advice.

All the information in is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. The views are those of the contributor at the time of publication and do not necessary reflect those of Ninety One.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.

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Ninety One SA (Pty) Ltd is an authorised financial services provider.