Wilderness appoints new Chairman

  • Board rejected Parks Tafa
  • Tafa was absent chairman


The richest eco-tourism outfit in Botswana, Wilderness Holdings Limited has appointed Michael Stone as the new board chairman, after its long term chair, Parks Tafa was controversially rejected.

Tafa joined the board since Wilderness’s listing in 2010 and became chairman in 2013. He was largely seen as the company’s key ally in the country as he had swaying influence and understood the country’s dynamics owed to years of experience as a successful lawyer and had access to top decision makers.

Tafa is said to have submitted his name for re-election to the board of the Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSEL) and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) quoted tourism outfit at its Annual General Meeting held in the capital Gaborone recently.

In a shareholder note released late about a week back by the board of directors, it was revealed that while all items on the AGM agenda were approved by the requisite majority of votes, Tafa’s bid to be re-elected as director was rejected.

Leading up to the AGM, Tafa, who served as chairman of the ecotourism company was set to retire as director as part of the company’s constitution which requires at least one third of the directors retire by rotation from the board at the annual general meeting together with Malcolm McCulloch and Gavin Tollman.

Under ordinary resolution number two, the three directors, both eligible, had offered themselves for re-election at the ninth annual general meeting that was slated for the 30th August. However, Tollman dropped out after he resigned from the board since he no longer had vested interest in the safari company. Until late July, the Tollman family was the largest single shareholder in Wilderness Holdings through Wine Investments Limited, their investment company. In July, the Tollmans disposed of their entire shareholding in Wilderness Holdings after they sold their shares to The Rise Fund, a social impact investment fund managed by TPG Growth.

The snubbing of Tafa according to the then acting chairman indicated that Tafa as chairman of the board could not make it to the meeting due to poor health. Reports of Tafa’s health were first made public in the company’s 2017 annual report when Michael Tollman, then deputy chairman, wrote the chairman’s statement on his behalf, while also reporting that he has been acting on behalf of Tafa who has been indisposed due to poor health.

This week, the Board of Directors of Wilderness announced the appointment of Stone as Chairman of the Board, as of 24 October 2018. Mike has been a non-executive director of Wilderness since 12 July 2018. Mike is the Founder and Managing Member of FS Investors. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor and Partner of TPG. Over his career, he has overseen or been involved with the completion of over 250 investments and has been responsible for overseeing roughly $15 billion dollars of private equity capital deployment. Previously, Mike was Founder and Chairman of J.H. Whitney Investment Management, LLC. He is the retired Managing Partner and President of J.H. Whitney & Co., a diversified manager of alternative investment assets and the United States’ first venture capital firm. Mike has created and operates the Mike and Karen Stone Family Foundation, which is focused on improving the lives of communities in need and particularly children within those communities. Notably, the foundation has an established philanthropic presence in Kenya, where it provided the vision and capital for Oleleshwa Farm in a partnership with the Me to We organization. Oleleshwa feeds thousands of local people per day and serves as an educational hub for the regional community.