“To hear Benjamin Trisk speak is a pure delight.” The former CEO of Exclusive Books understands what a brand is and why it truly matters. He has deep in his soul the sanctity of engagement with ALL the stakeholders in an organisation, and that means much more than just pleasing the ones with their names on the door. And he knows what it means to have a dream and to break the mould if that’s what it takes. But he never doubts that principled and ethical leadership always finds a home in the mind of the public.
Benjamin was born in Johannesburg and schooled both in South Africa and London. He read a first degree in History and Politics at the University of Cape Town and returned there in 1977 when he did an MBA. Before his MBA he was an analyst at a firm of stockbrokers, Davis Borkum Hare, which later became Merryl Lynch (South Africa). He received a distinction for his thesis on the application of Portfolio Theory to South African Equity Markets.
Benjamin has taught mathematical finance at the University of the Witwatersrand and spent almost a decade at (what was then) Premier Group Holdings, and occupied the position of Executive General Manager in charge of Group Strategic Planning when he left in 1987. He was initially recruited to manage a diverse chain of bookshops (both academic and trade – which included a far smaller Exclusive Books chain) and describes it as “the most fun I ever had”. His dominant interest is “books and reading”. In a recent speech he called an organization’s human resource “the primary agent for change”.
Benjamin has sat on many public company boards and he is presently a Trustee of Nali’bali which is one of the world’s leading literacy organisations and the winner of the 2015 Astrid Lindgren prize.
He largely pursued his own interests until, together with a private equity group, he acquired Exclusive Books and returned as CEO in December 2013. Under his direction Exclusive Books has become one of the premier brands in the country. He has been credited with “single-handedly” re-engineering a failing brand and his work and the stores he has created are recognised throughout the world. Recently Andrew Jennings, the former CEO of Woolworths and ex-MD of Harrods (among other leading positions in the retail world), told him “the Hyde Park store you created and manicured is brilliant! World Class.”
Benjamin settled an acrimonious fight with his shareholders in the Exclusive Books Group, and recently left the group on amicable terms. He remains a shareholder.
Benjamin is married to Helen Maisels and they have one son who is a candidate attorney with a leading Johannesburg-based law firm. A son from a former marriage lives in upstate New York with his wife. Benjamin is not quite sure what he does apart from making his own sausages and tapping maple syrup from a large tree in the garden