The Rembrandt Tobacco Corporation was founded in South Africa

Anton Rupert

Saturday, 12 June 1948

In 1948 the Rembrandt Tobacco Corporation was established by Anton Rupert. The first cigarettes were manufactured in an old flour mill in Paarl on 12 June 1948. After 1954 the group expanded worldwide and obtained interests in 27 countries.

According to his biography, Anton Rupert's business career spanned over sixty years. He started his global empire in 1941 becoming named on the Forbes list of 500 wealthiest families worldwide. At the time of his death his assets were estimated at $1.7 billion.

After dropping out of medical school due to a lack of funds, Rupert earned a chemistry degree at the University of Pretoria, where he also lectured for a short while. Subsequently, he started a dry-cleaning business.

Some time later together with two fellow investors, he started manufacturing cigarettes in his garage, which he eventually built into the tobacco and industrial conglomerate Rembrandt Group, overseeing its transition to the industrial and luxury branded goods sectors, with Rembrandt eventually splitting into Remgro (an investment company with financial, mining and industrial interests) and Richemont (a Swiss based luxury goods group).

The Rupert family continues to be a dominant force in the South African business world. The Rembrandt Group was built up into a multibillion rand group that was at one point second only in size to Anglo American, currently; this business empire encompasses hundreds of companies located in 35 countries on six continents, with combined yearly net sales in the region of 10 billion US dollars.

With interests ranging from tobacco and mining to industry, the Rupert's became the leading family in Afrikaans business circles, in much the same way as the Oppenheimers were the family figureheads of the Anglo mining empire.

Last updated : 12-Jun-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011