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Alfred Beit (1853-1906) was a mining magnate, close associate of Cecil Rhodes, and played a key role in the early development of the South African mining industry. Beit was born in Hamburg. In 1875 he travelled to South Africa and by 1878 he had set up a diamond merchant business in his own name at Kimberley. Later he formed an association with J. Porges and Julius Wernher, and in 1890 they formed Wernher, Beit & Co, dealing in diamonds, diamond shares and goldmines. While in Kimberley Beit also formed a close business relationship with Cecil Rhodes, and was instrumental in helping Rhodes to form and finance De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1888. Beit became a naturalised British subject, and keen supporter of Rhodess expansionist ambitions. He was an original director of the British South Africa Company, and later with Rhodes was instrumental in orchestrating the abortive 1895 Jameson Raid. In the aftermath of the Raid and the resulting official enquiries, Beit was forced to resign as director of the Chartered Company. However, he resumed this position and became the chief figure at De Beers after the death of Rhodes in 1902. Beit was also known as a philanthropist and left upwards of £2 million to charitable causes in England, South Africa and Germany on his death in 1906.
For further information see:
C. W. Boyd, revised by Ian Phimster, (2004) Beit, Alfred (1853-1906) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30676
G. Seymour Fort (1932) Alfred Beit: A Study of the Man and his Work London: Nicholson & Watson
Geoffrey Wheatcroft (1985) The Randlords: The Men Who Made South Africa London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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