The Team

The Acorn Private Equity group of Executives consists of strong individuals with an array of abilities and expertise. The Team has a strong backbone of private equity, agriculture and financial services experience. The Executives work very well together as a unit and there are defined positions and roles within the group.


Pierre Malan
Chief Executive Officer

Pierre is the co-founder and majority shareholder of Acorn Private Equity. He is a qualified chartered accountant and is undoubtedly one of the most successful private equity specialists in South Africa. His excellent track record, along with his contacts and relationships within the industry are priceless qualities that very few private equity funds can boast of. Pierre and Carl are listed as key individuals with the FSB.

BRIEF HISTORY: Pierre specialised in taxation with Arthur Andersen in 1992 and during this time became involved in structured and project finance. In 1994, he joined stockbrokers SMK Securities. In April 1996, he moved to Corporate Finance where he was involved in mergers and acquisitions, new listings, structured finance, rights issues and management buyouts. In January 1998, he was promoted to Director: Corporate Finance of BOE Securities. In September 1998, Pierre started the Corporate Finance function in PSG Investment Bank and worked on new listings, mergers and acquisitions, capital raisings, restructurings and general advice. After the disposal of PSG Investment Bank in June 2002, Pierre assisted in the set-up and creation of PSG Capital as an Executive Director tasked with private equity and corporate finance. In 2006, he joined the PSG Group main board and started PSG’s dedicated private equity investment vehicle, Paladin Capital Ltd. as CEO. Under his guidance, the company grew from R280m of assets under management to a value in excess of R800m in February 2009, when he resigned to start Acorn Private Equity.

Carl Neethling
Chief Investment Officer

Carl is a qualified chartered accountant with several years of successful private equity and investment experience at international level. His background in entrepreneurial enterprises and family businesses, together with his experience in fund management and deal structuring, complements the team’s skill set. Carl is a co-founder and shareholder of Acorn Private Equity and the managing director of the Fund Manager of the group. Carl and Pierre are listed as key individuals with the FSB.

BRIEF HISTORY: Carl comes from a strong entrepreneurial and family business background. After his traineeship in Cape Town, Carl accepted a position in Miami where he was part of a core team that provided valuation and investment advice to private equity and real estate clients in Miami (e.g. Whitehall, Trump Group, Berkshire Hathaway). Through Carl’s dealings with Whitehall and Goldman Sachs, he was subsequently recruited to the head-offices of the Westmont Group in London, where he was the global investment controller on their private equity ventures. Westmont is one of the largest privately owned investors in private equity in the world with several billion US dollars under management. Carl resigned from Westmont to join Pierre in heading up Acorn Private Equity.

Gerhard Visagie
Investment Director

Gerhard is a qualified chartered accountant with solid experience in the private equity industry. He is a dynamic individual with a keen enthusiasm for commerce and investing. Gerhard has been involved with Acorn from close to inception and serves on the Exco and board of Acorn.

BRIEF HISTORY: Gerhard completed his traineeship at MGI Bass Gordon where he gained invaluable insight into the operations and finance of private companies. In January 2010, he was recruited as a private equity and turnaround executive at SAAD Investment Holdings, a financial services focussed private equity firm. In June 2010, Gerhard joined Acorn Private Equity where he has been involved in all aspects of managing Acorn’s investment funds and portfolio and the conclusion of various corporate finance transactions.

Johan van Zyl
Investment Manager

Johan is a qualified CFA with experience in private equity and corporate finance across Southern Africa, the UK and USA. He enjoys the dynamics and active involvement in value creation that private equity investing has to offer.

BRIEF HISTORY: Johan has a strong academic background and lectured for 3 years in investment management and finance at Stellenbosch University. After that he was part of a niche corporate finance house where he gained experience across a wide range of industries and sectors including agriculture, food / FMCG, natural resource management, financial services, technology and the film & production industry. Johan joined Acorn as an analyst at the start of 2015. He has been intricately involved in the end-to-end private equity investment and portfolio management process.

Michael Prinsloo

Michael is a chartered accountant with experience in the consumer, industrial, retail and agricultural sectors. He relishes the opportunity to combine the structured allocation of capital with entrepreneurial endeavours within private equity.

BRIEF HISTORY: Michael completed his BAcc LLB and BAcc (Hons) degrees at Stellenbosch University, after which he joined PWC to complete his traineeship. During this time, he gained exposure to both public and private companies in industries including retail, agriculture, media & publishing and financial services. He also completed his LLM in commercial law at the University of Cape Town during his articles. Michael joined Acorn as an analyst in 2017.


Francois van Zyl
Corporate Finance Executive

Francois is a qualified chartered accountant and a CFA charterholder. He enjoys the fundamental analysis of investment opportunities and understands the business and management aspects of running a company. Corporate finance provides an excellent combination of the two.

BRIEF HISTORY: Francois completed his traineeship at a medium-sized auditing firm in Cape Town where he was responsible for auditing numerous small to medium-sized enterprises. Following this, he spent almost six years in London working at Investec Bank and Investec Asset Management. Whilst at Investec Bank, he was part of the internal audit division before transferring to Investec Asset Management, where he was an equities analyst on a global equities fund. Returning to Cape Town, he joined Acorn Private Equity.


Gerhard Jacobs

Gerhard is the financial manager at Acorn and the company secretary of Acorn Agri. He has 16 years’ accounting and financial management experience in the investment banking and private equity sectors. Gerhard has been an integral part of the Acorn team since inception and is responsible for the setup of the fund structures, fund accounting, financial reporting, compliance and general administration of the funds.