Nicky Oppenheimer: A Billionaire Who Kept A Family Diamond Business Alive

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Nicky Oppenheimer is one of the richest people in South Africa. He is the third richest in Africa and 23rd in the world. This is the story of how the De Beer family built up the biggest diamond mining company in South Africa.

A Wealthy Beginning

Nicky Oppenheimer was born in a family of diamond miners that controlled the business for three generations. Nicky Oppenheimer’s grandfather, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, was the founder of Oppenheimer Diamonds and, later, founded the Anglo American Corporation of South Africa. Nicky’s father Harry Oppenheimer was also a prominent businessman, industrialist, and philanthropist.

Nicky was born in South Africa in 1945. He was educated at a prestigious school in the UK and went on to earn a first-class degree from Oxford University.

After joining Anglo American in 1968, he was appointed a director in 1974 and deputy chairman in 1983. He remained a non-executive director until 2011. In 1984 he was appointed deputy chairman of the Diamond Trading Company and in 1985 he was the deputy chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines. He was the chairman of the De Beers Group from 1998 to 2012.

Nicky Oppenheimer’s Life 

Today, the South African businessman and philanthropist is a billionaire. He worked as the chairman of both the De Beers Diamond Mining Company and the Diamond Trading Company. He was the former deputy chairman of Anglo American. With an $8.7 billion net worth in 2022, he is the 23rd richest person in the world and the third richest person in Africa.

The company De Beers is 85% owned by Anglo Americans and 15% owned by the Government of the Republic of Botswana. The company owns two mines in Botswana, Jwaneng and Orapa represent 92% of the nation’s diamond output by value. De Beers currently has a production capacity of 35 million carats. Oppenheimer sold about a 40% stake in De Beers to another mining company Anglo American in 2012 for $5.2 billion in cash.

He also maintains private equity investments in many parts of the world including in Africa, Asia, the U.S., and Europe.

He owns several estates such as the Brenthurst Estate, a 48-acre lush and private residence in Parktown, the suburb of Johannesburg.

Nicky Oppenheimer’s Philanthropy works

Nicky is a director at Brenthurst Foundation and Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. Founded in 2005, the Brenthurst Foundation is a Johannesburg-based think-tank that examines ways to drive Africa’s sustainable growth. The Foundation examines new ideas and innovative actions for strengthening Africa’s economic performance. The Oppenheimer Generations Foundation is focused on making impacts granting underfunded areas. Another foundation is the Research & Conservation team which supports research and conservation efforts.

The Oppenheimer family partnered with De Beers to establish the Diamond Route in 2006. This is to maximize the potential of their properties for conservation, research, and environmental awareness purposes.

9 Quotes of Nicky Oppenheimer

  • Businesses need certainty, to see the rules of engagement for investing in South Africa.
  • Oppenheimer Diamonds are a key component in the campaign to make poverty history.
  • I am an African. I live there and my children live there, and as far as I understand, they intend to go on living there.
  • The army taught me to sign my name very quickly, and that’s stood me in good stead the rest of my life.
  • I don’t think Africa gets as much credit as it should have on the world stage. People tend to think of us as coming from The Dark Continent, where nothing good goes on. That’s not true. A huge amount of, as I say, entrepreneurship goes on.
  • You can get a diamond that is worth 10 cents; you can get a diamond of the same size, which is worth a hundred dollars.
  • I am one of the affluent living the good life. But I like to think that I am doing my bit to resolve the problems of Africa and am certainly committed to Africa in the long run.
  • It is only through developing and maximizing all its natural resources that a sustainable future for Africa and its people can be secured.
  • Diamonds are intrinsically worthless, except for the deep psychological need they fill.

Basic facts about Nicky Oppenheimer

  1. Nicky Oppenheimer is a South African billionaire businessman, philanthropist, and former chairman of De Beers diamond mining company. He was also a former deputy chairman of Anglo American.
  2. He was born on June 8, 1945  in South Africa.
  3. His father was also a famous businessman in South Africa. For 25 years he was the chairman of Anglo American Corporation, and for 27 years he was the chairman of De Beers.
  4. Nicky is the third richest African.
  5. He was taught in a prestigious school in the UK. He went to Harrow School and later to Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. O
  6. He sold 40 percent of the diamond business to a fellow company for $5.2 billion in cash. Soon he retired in 2012.
  7. Nicky is a philanthropist and a major donor to the conservation of heritage. He has also been a major supporter of the arts and culture in the Southern African region. Furthermore, Oppenheimer has also been an advocate of community upliftment, education, health, and nature conservation in the areas of Africa.
  8.  Openheimer has been married to Orillia Lasch Oppenheimer, since 1968. Her family is wealthy. They have one son who also kept the family business legacy. His son Jonathan is married to Jennifer Ward and they have three children. He lost his wife in 2017 due to cancer.


In conclusion, the De beers family business has become one of the biggest companies in South Africa. The family business was started in 1886 by Ernest Oppenheimer. The De beers Group was originally involved in the mining of diamonds. Nicky Oppenheimer was born in this family, among the billions of dollars the company was making each year. He continued the family tradition and he served as head of the company.

He has made his fortune by focusing on diamonds and diamonds alone. He started by selling diamonds to jewelers in Africa, then the world over. He is currently the world’s second-largest diamond merchant. Today, he is one of the richest people in South Africa and even in the world.









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