Stephen Saad 2014


2012 Sunday Times Business Man of the Year and co-founder of the Aspen Group, Stephen Saad was raised in Durban, where he attended Durban High School. He later obtained a BCom degree in 1985 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting in 1986 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He then went on to qualify as a Chartered Accountant (SA).

After completing his articles at Coopers & Lybrand, Stephen Saad started his career at Quickmed and convinced the company who wanted to sell off the business, that ownership of intellectual property would be the only way to save the business. He became a 50 percent shareholder of Quickmed, and identified Covan, a family-run business that manufactured eye-drops, as an acquisition opportunity. Quickmed then merged with Covan to form a new entity, Zurich. Saad's focus on this combined business enabled it to double its turnover. Prempharm (now Adcock Ingram) saw the threat Zurich posed to it and acquired Zurich in 1993. As a condition for the disposal of Zurich, he served a restraint of trade. During this period he acquired Varsity College which had been poorly run and without financing, faced closure within six months. Together with Gus Attridge, Stephen reshaped the business, restructured the overhead base, dismissed the founder and drove the turnover with a concerted advertising campaign which offered a money-back guarantee to any student who attended all the lectures and did not pass their exams. Saad sold Varsity College and thereafter, set up Aspen (Pty) Ltd in 1997.

By going against the grain, Saad, Chief Executive Officer and a co-founder of the Aspen Group, has over more than a decade built one of the world's premier pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in the heart of Port Elizabeth. The real challenge was how to make Aspen globally competitive while building a reputation for quality - especially given the pricing pressures from competitors in the East. Under his leadership, and with his keen financial acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, and healthy appetite for calculated risk-taking, he developed Aspen into a highly profitable concern, with local and international subsidiaries.

Today, Aspen is ranked as Africa's largest pharmaceutical manufacturer and is also considered to be the leading pharmaceutical company in South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Australia. By 2006, Aspen had become the biggest supplier of anti-retroviral drugs in Africa. Saad received the Ernst & Young's South African Chapter of the World Entrepreneur Award in 2004 and the Convocation Award for 2005 from his alma mater, the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was also inducted into the international Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame in 2005.

He has personally driven Aspen's Corporate Social Investment initiatives and in 2012,  raised more than R10 million for paediatric healthcare in Africa by cycling more than 240km off-road in one day, an initiative that was supported by Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Aspen also celebrates Nelson Mandela International Day within its subsidiaries and in 2012 more than 2000 Aspen employees from 11 countries contributed to the success of 29 projects on 6 continents which touched the lives of some 3000 beneficiaries.

In recognition of his exceptional entrepreneurial and financial skills, which he has used to revolutionise the generic pharmaceutical industry in South Africa, and for making a positive difference to the lives of many South Africans, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to confer the degree of Doctor of Commerce (honoris causa) on Stephen Saad.