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History Timeline

The New Order

On the death of Sir Liege Hulett in 1928, Albert Hulett assumed Chairmanship of the company and W E R Edwards succeeded him as Managing Director.

During the 1920's and 1930's there was a general expansion of the capacity of all the Hulett's mills and the central refinery, and in addition the company had acquired the Emoyeni Co-op Sugar Milling Company from the Konigkramer family, who operated a very small factory situated between Gingindlovu and Mtunzini. This mill was closed in 1938 and the cane was diverted to Amatikulu.

The 1930's were very trying times for the sugar industry and obviously Huletts shared these, experiencing severe droughts, malaria, the infestation of swarms of locusts and world depression. It was also during this time that many cane growers were forced into relinquishing their operations and the company, as was the case with many other milling companies, took over their farms in order to assure their cane supplies.

This accounts for the substantial land holdings of Tongaat Hulett today.

The company survived these times and the difficulties of operation under the austere climate of the 1939-45 war. It was Reggie Edwards who, on the return of soldiers from the Second World War, instituted a scheme whereby some of the miller-cum-planter estates in Zululand were divided and leased on favourable terms to 10 company employees who had served in the South African Forces during the war.

Kearsney College

For many years Sir Liege, possibly due to the influence of his father, Dr. James Hulett, a schoolmaster, had cherished a dream of establishing a school for boys in Natal. Kearsney House had been empty since Albert Hulett had moved to Durban in 1917 and he found it ideally suited for this purpose. This then was the founding of Kearsney College and was to be Sir Liege's last large public benefaction and a living and fitting memorial to a great man.

W E R Edwards was succeeded in 1948 by Guy Hulett, a son of Albert Hulett and a grandson of Sir Liege.

It was during his period as Chairman and Managing Director of the Company that further major developments and expansion took place.

In late 1962, one of the most significant incidents ever to take place in the South African sugar industry occurred when Guy Hulett decided to put in a take-over bid for Natal Estates, a company owned by the Campbell family, which itself had played a long and important role in the sugar industry.

Major Acquisitions

In a long and bitter stock exchange battle, Hulett was successful in his bid, but no sooner had he acquired Natal Estates, when his own company, Sir J L Hulett & Sons, was taken over by a consortium of the C G Smith Group and the Tongaat Sugar Company.

The company name was retained but the Hulett family largely disappeared from the business and the guiding hand became that of Chris Saunders, who was one of the major players in the successful acquisition of Huletts. He succeeded Ross Armstrong and became Chairman of both Huletts and Tongaat. A new sugar mill was opened at Amatikulu with a capacity in excess of 300 tons of cane per hour.

Always on the lookout for acquisitions, Huletts succeeded in 1973 in acquiring a majority shareholding in the South African interests of the huge Alcan Aluminium of Canada company. The decision was influenced by Huletts' major shareholder Tongaat, who already controlled Corobrik, and the move complimented their interests in the building industry. It also endorsed Huletts' involvement in the packaging industry as they controlled 50 percent of Hypack which was later disposed of to C G Smith. In 1975 Huletts purchased the milling rights of the Doornkop Sugar Company from the Illovo Group.

At the time of the 1962 takeover, Ross Armstrong was Chairman and Jack Hulett and Morty Taylor were joint Managing Directors of Huletts. Chris Saunders became Chairman and Hulett and Taylor were succeeded by Dr. Kees van der Pol, who held that position until the merger with Tongaat in 1982, when he became Vice-Chairman of the newly-formed Tongaat Hulett.

Head Office

Dr. van der Pol was the executive who initiated the move of Huletts Corporation's head office from 213 West Street, which they had occupied for almost 90 years, to the award-winning glass and aluminium building built on the ridge overlooking La Lucia

Felixton Mill

With the expansion of the sugar industry in the 1960's and 1970's, and the predicted increase in cane supplies to the turn of the century, it was decided to close the Felixton and Empangeni mills, which had equipment dating back some 70 years, and to replace them with a new mill at Felixton. This mill is capable of producing 400 000 tons of sugar in a season.

So it was that Huletts had been a controlled company since the 1962 takeover - first by the consortium of S & T Investments (Smith & Tongaat) and then in 1980, Barlows took over the C G Smith Company, and Tongaat and Barlows joined in controlling Huletts. This did not last for long as Barlows' paper and packaging interests conflicted with Ngoye Paper Mills, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Huletts.

The Merger

At the time, Anglo American, a shareholder in both Tongaat and Huletts, was preparing to develop the giant Mondi Paper Company and in 1981 this organisation finally took over Barlows' interests in S & T investments.

Following the disposal of Ngoye to Mondi in late 1981, the next logical step was for Tongaat and Huletts to merge into one major company. Chris Saunders was Chairman of both Huletts and Tongaat, and as Anglo American held more than 20 percent of the shares in both companies, it was logical that the two should merge. This they did with effect from April 1982 to form The Tongaat Hulett Group Limited.