The city that Donnie built

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31 Jan 2013

Almost 40 years ago, in 1973, Liberty Life and its founder Donald Gordon (‘Donnie’) built what would become one of the most successful and innovative buildings in the world, a place that would set the standard for shopping worldwide, Sandton City

Almost 40 years ago, in 1973, Liberty Life and its founder Donald Gordon (‘Donnie’) built what would become one of the most successful and innovative buildings in the world, a place that would set the standard for shopping worldwide, Sandton City.

This iconic property has proved so successful that following the degeneration of Johannesburg CBD, most major South African corporates and banks moved their headquarters to the square mile that surrounded it.

Even the Johannesburg Stock Exchange chose to move there in 2000.

As a result, the area now known simply as Sandton has become synonymous with luxury, with most wealthy Johannesburg businessmen and women basing themselves within 10 miles of the shopping centre.

In fact according to WealthInsight figures, Sandton’s core suburbs around the shopping centre including Sandhurst, Hyde Park and Atholl accounted for over 25 percent of South Africa’s millionaires at the end of 2012.

In recent years, many developers have tried to replicate Sandton City’s impact and success.

Gateway in Umhlanga Durban is maybe the only one that got close, Cavendish in Claremont Cape Town on a smaller scale perhaps, but Sandton City remains by far the most profitable and successful shopping centre in the country to this day.

Those who have travelled will also know that there are few shopping centres in the world that can match Sandton City.

Even the newly built Westfield in London seems bleak in comparison.

What happened to Donnie?

Since the success of Sandton City and Liberty Life, Donnie took his ideas to the UK, starting Liberty International and listing it on the London Stock Exchange in the early 90s.

This proved highly successful but since the global financial crisis in 2008 the company has begun to struggle.

According to WealthInsight, Donnie is now worth US$860 million compared to over US$2 billion at his peak.

However, despite his recent struggles in the UK market, Donnie will always be remembered for what surely remains his greatest achievement - the shopping centre that set the benchmark for luxury and class worldwide. The shopping centre that the greatest city in Africa is now built around. The Monolith. Sandton City. – Andrew Amoils

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