Posted on Thursday, 18 Nov 2021
Ross van Reenen is returning to his roots. Born and bred in Golden Gate, Clarens, he was a student, teacher, provincial rugby player and businessman in the Free State. He is moving from Stilbaai to Bloemfontein to lead the Toyota Free State Cheetahs as CEO.
Ross has an impressive track record as financial growth, transformation and turnaround leader, chief executive, board chairman and developer of businesses and people.
He played for the Shimlas and Free State at a young age and later in 62 Currie Cup games and four finals. “The Free State has shaped me as a person and a professional. My closest friends are still former players. The Free State gave me the best years of my life. It is time to give back,” he says.
He points out that Free State and the Cheetahs have been hurt by the pandemic and the loss of 67% of the franchise’s top-line income from SA Rugby ... and this after their Currie Cup wins in 2016 and 2019, trailblazing Pro14 participation and producing some of South Africa’s finest players and coaches.
“My business career is at a point where I can assist the Cheetahs full-time. I will seek financial backing and support for this special 126-year old rugby brand - to make it sustainable and to become the top team it deserves to be in the next two to three years. I want the Cheetahs to be able contract top players instead of training them for other franchises.”
Ross was part of the team that beat the All Blacks in 1976 and later that year became the first Free State team to win the Currie Cup. He founded – and still chairs – the South African Rugby Players Foundation (SARPA) to prepare professional and amateur rugby players for a future career or business. The Ross van Reenen Academy took his initiative even further. His bestselling book From Locker Room to Boardroom – converting rugby talent into business success (Exclusive Books’ top seller 16 days after publication) tells it all. He has lectured to postgraduate MBA students for more than 20 years and mentored rising stars in the business world.
With erstwhile teammates, he co-founded the Vrybos initiative to help former Free State players with their medical expenses. He is a Springbok life-saver and deep-sea angler and received senior provincial colours in rugby, water polo, biathlon, triathlon, deep-sea angling and lifesaving.
As current Chairman and previous chairman of various companies in the financial services industry, development and construction companies, Ross has international executive, consulting and strategy expertise combined with extensive experience in various economic sectors.
He was contracted by Barclays Bank plc, Standard Bank, MTN, the International Rugby Board, The Sports Sciences Institute and the Relyant Retail Group. He has extensive business, rugby and other sports networks in South Africa and internationally.
Ross holds a BA (Hons) and Higher Education Diploma from the Universities of Pretoria and the Free State. He attained his MBA degree with distinction from The Oxford-Brookes University in London.
He is a financial columnist, magazines editor and prolific publisher of academic and business articles.
Ross lives in Stilbaai with his wife Annelize.