May 30, 2024
Prosus, Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk abruptly steps down


Bob van Dijk, the chief executive of Dutch e-commerce investor Prosus and its controlling shareholder Naspers, has resigned from the top role, including the boards, with immediate effect. Ervin Tu, Prosus’ group chief investment officer, has been elevated as interim chief executive for the companies that hold significant stakes in major software, payments, edtech and food delivery enterprises and startups worldwide.

The firms didn’t say why van Dijk, 50, stepped down, but asserted that the decision was reached after “mutual” agreement. The press release from the firms oddly didn’t include a statement from van Dijk, who assumed the top role at the firms in 2014.

Someone with knowledge of the companies indicated that the transition had been planned for a while, as van Dijk had accomplished almost all the objectives he had outlined for himself. He will continue to consult the boards for a year.

Van Dijk exits having addressed one of the intricate issues that surfaced during his term. During his lengthy tenure Naspers grappled with the surging value of its stake in Tencent, where it remains the single-largest shareholder. In 2019, van Dijk listed Prosus to manage the Tencent stake and initiated measures, including buybacks and selling Tencent shares, to address the value discrepancy.

He created and later dissolved a cross-shareholding structure between Prosus and Naspers, which was criticized for its complexity. The two firms completed the removal of the cross-shareholding structure on Monday.

During his term, Prosus also made aggressive bets in many international markets, including India, where its portfolio firms today lead the food delivery, online learning and payments processing markets.

“The group’s strategic goals remain unchanged and it is on target to deliver on its commitments, including achieving consolidated ecommerce trading profit during the first half of FY25,” the companies said.

A $32 million 2001 investment in China’s Tencent propelled Naspers to become a leading global investor. Over the past two decades, Naspers has solidified its position as a dominant backer, funneling funds into various firms, including StackOverflow, Delivery Hero, Trip.com, Udemy, PayU, Byju’s, Swiggy and Meesho.

Van Dijk’s departure follows the exit of several more senior executives, including Larry Illg, a longtime investor who oversaw Prosus’ deals in food and edtech sectors. In July, Prosus slammed Byju’s, the world’s most valuable edtech startup, for lapses in the Bengaluru-headquartered firm’s reporting and governance practices.

Prosus is increasingly also offloading many of its businesses and paring down expenses. It last month sold PayU’s global business (excluding India, Turkey and Southeast Asia operations) to London-based Rapyd for $610 million. As the market conditions worsened last year, the firm also called off a high-profile $4.7 billion acquisition of payments giant BillDesk.

“Prosus is operating with momentum. I am honored to assume the role and help shape the future of the Group. I couldn’t be more excited about the team around me and to get started,” said Tu, a veteran dealmaker who joined Prosus two years ago from SoftBank, in a statement.



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