Charles Singer: the legend hangs up his hat

Crown National celebrated its 100th birthday last year and to most people who know Charles Singer, it feels as though that’s how long he has been a part of this empire.

Mr Singer started his early business career in Oudshoorn, in the tobacco and ostrich feather industry and moved to Johannesburg to pursue big things. In 1985 Charles was appointed the director of National Spice and was to become the managing director of Crown National at the time of its inception, under the Bidvest umbrella.

He valued the idea of being an old fashioned salesman at heart, but at the same time was an astute businessman with a charted accountancy qualification. This man, who was to become a legend in the industry, was the inimitable, always humble, never pretentious, Charles Singer, affectionately called Charlie by all who knew him well.

He was proud of where he came from, having spent some of his formative years in Dysselsdorp, he did his articles in Cape Town and went to Oudshoorn after qualifying as a CA. He always spoke with great pride of his humble background. A “country boy” at heart he had an appreciation of people from all walks of life.

It did not take Charles very long to get commitment from management and staff, through his dedication to the business and an iron will to succeed, while being ever conscious of harnessing the collective efforts and support of his team in the business. There were times when his love for life coupled with his appreciation of people came to the fore through his ability to use his infectious sense of humour and personal disarming charm to win people over.

Charles is an extremely practical and hardworking leader, with an unwavering passion for painstakingly making sure that attention to detail is the cornerstone on which all decision making in the company is based. This contributed greatly to the success of the business, which grew tremendously over the two decades that he was at the helm of Crown National and in more recent years as CEO of Bidfood Ingredients. His analytical ability often astounded others and he had no equal when it came to analysing financial information and operational performance during business reviews with the various business units.

His great passion has always been innovation and he seemed to find innovation where others tended to accept things as they were. He relentlessly followed his dreams which always had, as a theme, the latent ability that the Group had to be the best at what it did in order to stay ahead of its competitors. Many of his dreams became reality through his vision, drive and innovative spirit. Never impetuous, with an incredible memory, he had the ability to find solutions to problems and identify opportunities nobody else had thought of.

Charles is a natural leader and he could get others to support and commit to what really mattered to the business. He had the uncanny ability to get to the heart of what was really important and he expressed in simple terms what was required. In this way, all employees were able to contribute to the end result in a meaningful way.

He often commented that “everything happens for a reason”. Herein lies the value system Charles embraced and made his own, as he continuously tried to understand the reason for things turning out the way they did, not only in business, but in life itself. Charles always humbly accepted the reason for things turning out the way they did, but appreciated that positive energy usually results in good things happening in life. He has been blessed
with an abundance of great achievements which never changed who he was over the course of his distinguished career.

His energy and zest for life knows no bounds and his insatiable desire to be enthusiastic in all endeavours is a trait that all who know him admire.

Charles was always acutely aware of, and sensitive to, the fact that he could not spend as much time with his wife Jacqui and his daughter Lana as he would have liked to during his career. He did have their unequivocal support. He has often expressed his wish to make up for the long hours he spent away from home and those close to him know that now that he has retired the family will have the quality time they all justly deserve. He is particularly proud of being a grandfather and this will certainly add to the enjoyment of the well-deserved time off he will have in the future.

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