Contracts TrainingSales Management TrainingBusiness Writing CourseProject Management CourseBusiness Communication Training

       PRESS RELEASE

Liberty sells Jozi landmark

- Charlene Smith
Thu, 17 Apr 2008

Johannesburg - One of Johannesburg's most historic conference venues has changed hands.
Liberty Life has sold its Parktown conference centre to AstroTech, a major training company.

The R23m deal comes as Liberty is consolidating its assets at head office.

Staff at the conference centre who have not been taken over by AstroTech have been relocated to Liberty's Braamfontein headquarters.

AstroTech is a national training group aimed at top executives and management; its subsidiary, BizTech, gears training toward mid-level management, business support staff and administrators.

The Cape Dutch-style conference centre - which is in walking distance to the Oppenheimer family home, Little Brenthurst - is less than a kilometre from major roads including Oxford Road, the M1, Houghton drive and Riviera Road.

It has five function rooms that can accommodate just over 310 seated delegates, a five-star restaurant, bar area and extensive gardens in a secluded setting that are used in summer for outdoor events. There is safe and free parking within the guarded and walled complex.

It has an adjacent 1 200m area that in the past was used for flats and offices, but Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech says they are converting the remaining flats into office space.

"We are very pleased to take ownership of this very lovely building with it's elegant gardens. We'll be installing a generator and WiFi coverage and will be doing other minor improvements."

The conference centre has been used extensively for conferences, events and high-powered negotiations between trade groups, government and private enterprise. It is favoured because of its seclusion yet closeness to the city.

Last year Johannesburg was ranked 47th in the MasterCard "Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index."

Johannesburg is the primary conference venue in Africa hosting some 860 major conferences a year and thousands more training programmes, seminars and discussion groups. South Africa was ranked 23rd in 2007 as a conference venue by the Union of International Associations and 31st by the International Congress and Convention Association.

The AstroTech Conference Centre, as the venue will now be called, was first built as a family home in 1924 for a Mr Simpson. It was then acquired in 1930 by multi-millionaire insurance company owner Isidor Schlesinger who emigrated to the United States in 1871 at the age of 18 and within two years was earning more than 1 000 a month making him a wealthy man at the age of 20.

In 1904, he founded African Life Assurance Association and later African Consolidated Theatres Group, the parent of Ster-Kinekor and the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

In the late 1940s, the Yugoslav government bought the homestead for its consul and then sold it in the early 1960s to the father of US billionaire Donald Trump.

In 1989, the property was bought by Liberty Life which turned it into a state of the art conference centre and functions venue. Van Wyk said AstroTech aimed "to turn it into the premier convention and training centre in Johannesburg".

AstroTech will take over the running of the centre from May 7.

- Fin24.com