TO VISIT Graham Boustred is to go back in time. It doesn't appear that way at first, however. Just as my two colleagues and I pull up outside the former Anglo American deputy chairman's home, he arrives in his silver Lexus SUV, driving himself back from the dentist. Although 84 and suffering from arthritis, the man who retired only 12 years ago is immediately full of talk and life.
"Implants," he says, as we walk from the garage to the back door of his Sandhurst home. "These are a more important technology for me than the internet. If it wasn't for implants, I'd be taking my teeth out and putting them in a glass like my parents did."
But once we are inside his sunny lounge , with a coffee table crowded with books, Boustred seems increasingly to belong to a world that no longer exists. He waves us past the pile of books, topped by The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson, to the well-kept garden outside.
"I made it in 1961," he says.
We are in Boustred's house at his invitation. The man who rarely gives press interviews invited Business Day to hear his views on the mining company and its management.
But Boustred wants to put his political view on the record, too. "I want to say a few words about Jacob Zuma. We've got a chance with that guy. I'd like him to get together with Helen Zille and the two of them to save this country."
A first attempt to ask about the company he worked at for three decades, however, is rebuffed.
Boustred wants to talk about the school he went to, St Andrew's College in Grahamstown.
Or rather, he wants to talk about himself.
"Ronald Currey was the headmaster. He was a Rhodes scholar, the same as I was. He was St Andrew's greatest-ever headmaster," Boustred says. I wonder where this story is leading, when he brings it up to the recent past. Someone going through Currey's papers had visited him to show a note he had written. "She came across a remarkable note: 'If I had to leave this school in a hurry, I'd be happy to leave it in charge of my head boy, G Boustred'," the octogenarian grandfather of 13 proudly says. "I got my Rhodes scholarship from Ronald Currey. I studied chemistry at Oxford."
It is not surprising to meet a self-obsessed business leader. The world is full of them. And Boustred, former chairman of the Anglo American Industrial Corporation, which owned most of the country's nonmining economy, such as newspapers and the companies that advertised in them, comes from a generation of business leaders who commanded substantial authority in their small world and were largely unchallenged in it.
Boustred comes across, in fact, as Lord Copper, writer Evelyn Waugh's mythical newspaper proprietor, who never doubted his own authority on any matter. It was a matter of course that his staff would never doubt him, either.
"Up to a point, Lord Copper," was the response when the boss was talking nonsense. "Definitely, Lord Copper," was the response when he was right.
Boustred may have once worked in a time when his edicts were treated the same way. He certainly behaves that way in interviews today.
He talks about Xstrata's proposed bid for Anglo American. "Xstrata, it's only a mechanism of getting rid of (Anglo CEO) Cynthia Carroll. The only mechanism is if (Xstrata CEO) Mick Davis comes along with his lousy assets and his good management, and takes over the operations. Does that make sense?"
Not hearing the conclusive answer he expects from his audience, Boustred shouts to make himself clearer: "Does that make sense?!!"
He turns to one of my colleagues. "I thought you were from Business Day. I thought you knew about business."
"I don't know," my colleague responds, deadpan.
"Then fuck off," the old man retorts. He turns to my other colleague.
"Do you understand the question?"
"Yes," she responds.
"Then repeat the question."
Politely, she obliges.
Boustred continues. "I've been accessing all my old records. I want to get an ancestry visa. I've got to find my grandfather's birth certificate."
Boustred's grandfather was mayor of Johannesburg between 1912 and 1913.
"He arrived in Durban at the age of 20 with two shillings in his pocket, he arrived in the mid-1880s. He ended up mayor of Johannesburg in 1913, which is not bad," says his octogenarian grandson .
Boustred, it turns out, wants to secure an ancestry visa for the UK, the country of his grandfather's birth. Would he move to the UK? we ask.
"If the wheels come off? Yes! Do you know if the wheels are going to come off? Nobody does. My life has been spent catering for the downside. Any idiot can cater for the upside. The way you cater for the downside is to have somewhere to go."
So where would he go?
"The Isle of Man. There are no Muslims, no blacks. It's got a good healthcare system. It rains a lot, but so what? I'll get under-floor heating and I'll get a good mackintosh.... I'm going to the Isle of Man, for Christ's sake."
The purpose of the interview is to hear Boustred's views about Anglo, which in February took the unprecedented decision to withhold its final dividend from shareholders in the face of what Carroll called "horrendous" market conditions.
In March, Carroll's predecessor, Tony Trahar, called that decision "a great mistake".
Boustred is also unhappy.
"Anglo's a disaster across the board," he says. "The whole Anglo American board has to be done away with. How can that board sit when they pass the final dividend? When people in SA regarded their investment in Anglo American as similar to the Bank of England? There are hundreds of thousands of people who lost their dividend."
Boustred is critical of the board. He is critical of the CEO. He is critical of the company's current strategy. His total stake in the company he values at between R90m and R100m, but says it would be closer to R500m if the company were managed better.
"The board is a disaster. The management is a disaster. It's got to be swept aside. The only way for it to be swept aside is for Mick Davis to succeed with his bid. Mick Davis - if he can run the Anglo assets, together with the less-attractive assets he brings, the package for shareholders will be much more attractive."
There is also, Boustred says, another potential remedy.
"The best thing that could happen to Anglo is if I went back. If I went back into Anglo, I know it would be a huge morale boost.. I keep bumping into people who say I was fantastic," Boustred says.
This is the man who built up steel producer Scaw Metals - which Anglo later bought - and was also involved in driving Anglo's Highveld Steel & Vanadium project. He consolidated Anglo's coal interests into one entity, Amcoal, and was a driver behind the creation of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.
He disagrees with the company's focus on minerals and away from the diversification that once characterised it.
"The greatest company in the world is GE. Can you think of a company that is more diverse? So why all this shit about focus? The big shareholders want focus. Excuse me, " he says, turning again to my female colleague, "I would have told them to fuck off. I would have kept Anglo's diversity. I hate to say it, but Anglo started to go downhill when I left."
Even though Boustred retired in 1997, Anglo American does not feel it can let the retired chairman's comments go unchallenged.
Company spokesman James Wyatt-Tilby says that the company's current targeted focus reflects the wishes of its institutional shareholders.
Wyatt-Tilby also points to Boustred's failed diversification into the pineapple business.
Under Boustred, Anglo American bought a joint controlling stake in canned fruit producer Del Monte Foods International for R800m in 1992. It sold it in 1998 for almost 40% less.
"He was one of the great rainmakers. He really did spin money. Del Monte was a sad epitaph," says veteran journalist David Gleason.
While Boustred is blunt and dogmatic, he is inconsistent in his criticism . Anglo moving its primary listing and headquarters to London from Johannesburg was a mistake, he says, but moments later says he "doesn't think it's bad that Anglo's in London".
We move towards lunch. It is now close to 2pm and the 12.30 interview is dragging on.
Quietly, we sit around Boustred's lunch table, where a buffet offers smoked salmon and salad. As the rest of us sit eating, the former deputy chairman stands, lecturing, even as he eats salmon on bread. He propounds prehistoric views out of order with today's business world.
And Carroll bears the brunt of those views.
"This woman's hopeless. There's no morale," he says. "Do you know why it's difficult to find a female CEO? It's because most women are sexually frustrated. Men are not, because they can fall back on call girls, go to erectile dysfunction clinics. If you have a CEO who's sexually frustrated she can't act properly."
His views on hiring are also from another age, but they come across as refreshing, rather than horrifying. "Do you know why I never took anybody on from a business school? I didn't want anybody who had studied why it was a breakthrough for McDonald's to paint the M yellow rather than red."
But it seems, overwhelmingly, that this old man of South African business, searching for his ticket-of- leave UK ancestry visa, is more at home in a world that is receding every day.
"I was two years behind Margaret Thatcher. Do you know she studied chemistry at Oxford?"
We thank him for the interview and leave. For all his modern car and large house, the world of Graham Boustred is an anachronism that is growing smaller all the time.
It's apt that he brought up Thatcher. He is to Anglo what the Iron Lady is to the UK Conservatives - once strong and to be feared, but now increasingly embarrassing. Thatcher is politically irrelevant, but Boustred's tirades are a desperate attempt to influence the present before the fast-receding past takes him with it. firstname.lastname@example.org