Our founders


Johann Rupert is a South African business luminary who grew up in Stellenbosch and began his career in banking in New York.

In 1979 he returned to South Africa and founded the Rand Merchant Bank which he led until 1984. He then joined and went on to head the Rembrandt Group. In 1988, he established Compagnie Financière Richemont, a Swiss-based luxury group of which he is currently Chairman. He also holds senior positions in a number of other businesses.

Throughout his career, Mr. Rupert has earned numerous awards and distinctions.  Voted three times Most Influential Leader in South Africa, he has also been named Business Leader of the Year on a number of occasions and was singled out by the World Economic Forum in 1992 as one of its Global Leaders of Tomorrow.

He holds honorary degrees from Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and the University of St. Andrews. In 2009, he received the University of Witwatersrand’s Management Excellence Award and was named Chancellor of Stellenbosch University. The same year, the President of France appointed him an Officer in the French National Order of the Legion of Honor.

We are living on the cusp of tremendous systemic change, and while many things may be in flux, one thing is clear: it’s time to give back and to put the human being back in the centre of our systems.

Beyond his many leadership and business accomplishments, Mr. Rupert has consistently worked to promote a healthy society and a better world, and has been instrumental in the creation of a number of organizations that reflect this commitment. Most notably, he is a founding member of the Small Business Development Corporation, now called Business Partners Ltd, which has created over half a million jobs in South Africa since its inception. He was also an advisory board member of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and, since 2006, is Chairman of the Peace Parks Foundation.

In addition, Mr. Rupert has done much to advance the values and wider potential of sports in society. He played a pivotal role in founding the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which harnesses the power of sports to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people around the world, and co-founded the Sports Science Institute at University of Cape Town. A former cricketer and accomplished golfer himself, he was inducted in 2007 into the South African Sports Hall of Fame and in 2009 into the South African Golf Hall of Fame.


Franco Cologni is an Italian entrepreneur, author and cultural authority who holds a degree in philosophy and letters from the Università Cattolica in his native Milan.

Before embarking on a fruitful and rewarding path in the world of business, Dr. Cologni was a cultural critic and professor of history of performing arts at his alma mater, and this profound knowledge and love of culture would shape and inform his eminent career in the world of luxury.

In 1969, Dr. Cologni joined Cartier and four years later he founded the first of the world-famous jeweler’s branches outside of France, Les Must de Cartier Italia. He went on to become Managing Director and Chairman of Cartier International. When Cartier was integrated into Richemont, he acted as Senior Executive Director in the luxury group and was named member of the Board of Compagnie Financière Richemont in 2002.

A champion of creativity as well as culture, Dr. Cologni built and leads a number of organisations to further these ideals. In 1995, he founded the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte which works to protect and promote the heritage of master craftsmanship throughout Italy. In 2004, he opened the Creative Academy in Milan, Richemont’s unique post-graduate international school of design. He was also highly instrumental in founding in 2005 the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, an organisation that promotes the culture and values of fine watchmaking.

I am sure that the time is ripe now for the emergence of an ‘artisan humanism’ everywhere and this foundation will bring key actors together to create a network to stimulate and sustain this movement.

A prolific author and editor, Dr. Cologni has distinguished himself as a specialist in the relationship between culture and luxury. He has written or edited numerous books, magazines and articles related to the history of the performing arts, luxury products, the applied arts, watchmaking, jewelry and fine craftsmanship. He has also commissioned a wide variety of publications and exhibitions on these subjects in his role as President of the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte.

Dr. Cologni’s work and his dedication to the promotion of culture have been recognized by some of the most prestigious accolades. In 2002, he was named Cavaliere del Lavoro in Italy for his outstanding entrepreneurship and cultural expertise. In 2012, for his contribution to culture and economics, the President of France named him a Knight in the National Order of Merit, Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters and Officer in the Legion of Honor.