South Africa: Mark Lamberti resigns as CEO of Imperial Holdings over sexist remark

On Wednesday, Imperial Holdings Ltd, the sixth largest company by sales in South Africa, announced that its Chief Executive Officer Mark Lamberti will resign at the end of this month. His resignation comes after a court judgment was passed against him in a gender remark made to a fired employee.

“The board has noted the content and tone of the judgment‚ in which there is no finding of defamation‚ racism or sexism despite extensive and frequently inaccurate publicity directed at Lamberti suggesting that there was.

“In light of this‚ Lamberti has resigned in the interests of the Imperial group and its stakeholders‚ who may be prejudiced by such publicity,” Imperial said in its statement announcing Lamberti’s resignation.

Last year, a fired employee Adila Chowan filed a court application against Lamberti for calling her a “female employment equity candidate” after she was fired in September 2015 over allegations of misconduct. According to Times Live, Chowan said Lamberti’s comments made her feel like the only reason she’d been employed within the Imperial Group was because she was an “equity employment employee”. She testified that she’d never been spoken to like this before and was particularly humiliated because she was addressed in this way in front of other senior managers. She also said that she was sidelined from being appointed as company CFO, despite promises made to her by Lamberti.

“I had built my career. I had been a CFO. I had acted as a CEO. All those achievements were not being recognized‚ apart from the fact that I was now being objectified in terms of being a female employment equity candidate‚” she testified.

Apart from resigning as the CEO of Imperial Holdings, he had recently resigned from the board of Business Leadership SA (BLSA)‚ and the Eskom board. Lamberti has since apologized to Chowan for his comment, which he said wasn’t to hurt her.

Following Lamberti’s resignation, Osman Arbee, currently CEO of the Imperial division Motus, will assume the position of the CEO at the start of May.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) says it’s proud to have played a part in Lamberti’s downfall, which should send a strong message that sexist and racist remarks will not be tolerated.