Retirement tribute to Alan Olivier

Retirement tribute to Alan Olivier

June 26, 2017

After 31 years, an entire career, Alan has announced his retirement.

Alan joined Unicorn on 1 September 1986, from the auditing world and quickly made his mark. Immediately after Murray Grindrod bought shares from Gencor to regain total control of Grindrod & company, there was much restructuring of the company’s financial systems in preparation for the listing of Grincor in October 1986. With his professional accounting background, one of his first tasks was to assist with the preparation for the successful listing of Grincor on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

He later decided to travel and handed his resignation to Ivan Clark, but was instead persuaded to head up the group’s rapidly expanding information technology division. After a time as the group’s treasurer, he became financial director of Unicorn Shipping Holdings, where he was closely involved in ship purchase and sale transactions, gaining valuable experience for his later role in Unicorn Tankers.

In the late 1990s he was closely involved in the further restructuring of the group, which emerged with three clear divisions: Liner Trades, Marine Operations and the important Tanker Division, which he established and of which he became Chief executive in 1997.  

  • 2005 Marine Money Award - Top lListed International Shipping Company. Alan Olivier (then MD Unicorn Shipping) photographed with Ivan Clark (then CEO Grindrod) and Tim McClure (then MD IVS)

  • Grincor listing in 1986, shortly after Alan joined Unicorn

  • Ivan clark, Caroline and Alan Olivier (then the Chief Executive Tanker Division) at the Engen Simunye launch in Poland in 1997

  • Engen Simunye launched in 1997 at the Szczecin shipyard in Poland. This was a sister ship to Engen Rainbow launched in 1996. These ships were launched by the joint venture between Unicorn Lines (Pty) Limited and Engen Petroleum Limited


His negotiating skills were much in evidence when he and Ivan concluded the deal to purchase the 40 per cent stake in Unicorn that was held by the Athens-based Restis group following the unbundling of Safmarine in 1999. 

As Unicorn tanker fleet expanded and international contracts became increasingly necessary to foster this sector, Alan relocated to the United Kingdom to coordinate the thrust into the global products tanker world and to ensure that Unicorn remained abreast of overseas trends.

But higher things were waiting for the capable man. He returned to Durban to discuss several matters with Ivan, unaware of what awaited him. ‘Sit down,’ said Ivan. ‘Congratulations!’ he beamed stretching out his hand, ‘you are the new CEO, if you would like to be.’ This was a total surprise to Alan as he had no inkling that Ivan was about to retire, let alone that he had been considered for the position.

When he took over the reins of the company in 2007, his first major decision led to the suspension of a proposal that the group should become involved in an East African railway project. Elsewhere, things were going well, and he could report very favourably to the shareholders. Important to him was the group’s identity, a passion that generated the common branding for all of its activities, streamlining of similar operations under a single management and the shedding of some superfluous business.

He has led Grindrod through the trying period of the global recession that brought the inevitable reduction in the group’s profits but his management style meant that Grindrod has been able to retain a significant capital base for further acquisitions.  Alan was instrumental in bringing in Remgro and Brimstone as partners to support our growth strategy in 2011 and 2014 respectively.

Said Andrew Waller, Grindrod Financial director: “Alan has had a fantastic career with Grindrod contributing at many levels in the organisation and indeed globally as his position required him to manage a business that does not have geographic boundaries.

There is no doubt that Alan’s love is for shipping. His memories of the old days are both challenging and rewarding. He often recalls Hong Kong and being involved in the restructure of those entities, his time in the UK and his ongoing engagement with the UK P&I where he will remain as Chairman.”

Alan, from all your colleagues at Grindrod, we thank you for your unwavering commitment to Grindrod and for steering the Group on our voyage.

Extracts from Grindrod Charting New Horizons by Brian Ingpen