South Africa's Mineral King

Coping with turbulence in politics and prices

"To be successful, your business has to be fun." By that creed Harry F. Oppenheimer, 72, has become one of South Africa's, and the world's, wealthiest and most influential businessmen. These days, however, Oppenheimer, head of an $18 billion gold, diamond and natural resources empire, and one of the country's most outspoken critics of apartheid, is smiling less than usual.

Though he has a personal fortune believed to be well in excess of $250 million, and either directly or indirectly controls nearly 300 companies involved in everything from gems to groceries, Oppenheimer hardly has absolute...

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