John Arnold Bredenkamp, The Zimbabwean Millionaire Who Made One Billion In America

John Arnold Bredenkamp was a Zimbabwean millionaire who immigrated to America and made himself a successful businessman in the land. The Casalee Group happens to be his foundation. He was born in Kimberley, South Africa and relocated to Rhodesia as a child along with his family.

His education was carried out at the Prince Edward School, Harare. He is of a Dutch lineage and was registered as a citizen of Rhodesia in 1958. It is said that he had lost his Zimbabwean citizenship ‘by default’ in 1984, which was soon restored to him. There has been a persistent confusion regarding his nationality as he possessed South African, Zimbabwean and Dutch passports. He was also the captain of the Rugby Union International, of the team of Rhodesia.  

Following his graduation, Bredenkamp joined Gallaher Limited, an international tobacco company which mainly functioned as a leaf buyer. In the year 1968, he was transferred to Niemeyer, Holland. Here he was promoted as a leaf director. In 1976, he left Gallaher in order to lay the foundation of his own Casalee Group of Companies.

It was registered in Antwerp, Belgium. There were reports that the Casalee operation was involved in the sale of Rhodesian tobacco on the different markets of the world, but it followed a process that evaded the UN sanctions. It was originally a leaf tobacco merchant company that also did some amount of general trading. It founded the mechanism of counter trade and indulged in barter deals too. Within a period of sixteen years, Casalee emerged as the fifth largest tobacco merchant in the world. It is also the largest non-American leaf tobacco company.  

The Casalee Group is indeed a large network of branches that are strewn across Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Greece, India, Russia, Spain and Thailand to name a few. And of course, the American branch in Winston-Salem. In 1993, the company was sold to Universal Leaf Tobacco, the largest leaf tobacco company in the world. This made Bredenkamp think about expanding his business interests to other various areas of interest.

He affected these primarily through the Breco Company registered in Zimbabwe.  Now, the manner in which Bredenkamp got himself involved in the commercial affairs of the country is pretty interesting. During the Bush War, in the 1970s, he was involved in the finances of the Rhodesian armed forces. He used this opportunity to broker the export sales of the Rhodesian products, primarily tobacco. He then used the money generated for the purchase of the military equipments. Though they reportedly busted the UN sanctions, they were not illegal under the Rhodesian law. His transfer of the operations in Belgium contributed to the sustenance of the Zimbabwean economy in the times of crises during the 1980s. He later built a personal fortune of $1billion.  



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