by Herman Manson (@marklives) Shaka Sisulu, entrepreneur and founder of digital and social media agency Plum, has acquired a personal 51% stake in Retroviral Digital Communications. Mike Sharman, Retroviral co-founder, CEO and chief creative strategist, retains 49% ownership.

“With [my] becoming a shareholder of Retroviral, the two businesses will work in tandem,” says Sisulu. “It is our vision to grow our combined revenues from around R30m to over R100m in five years through this alliance.”

Says Sharman, “Shaka brings diversity into Retroviral’s ownership structure, but this is no superficial empowerment deal. We are bringing two disruptor agencies closer together in order to continue producing award-winning work. Shaka and I share the same vision and have only the greatest respect for each other.”

No merger yet

According to Sisulu, he’s known and worked with Sharman over the years and has always been keen to collaborate with him. At this stage, the two agencies won’t be merged; Sisulu says both shops are working well and are positioned for growth. A merger further down the line would not be out of the question, however.

Sharman says Plum and Retroviral offer similar services but have targeted different demographics. Their future collaborations opens up a more-diverse range of markets to clients.

Sisulu is a well-known media personality (on radio, and later as a presenter of SABC 3’s Trending SA show), with investments in several businesses active in the commercial communications industry. Sisulu flirted with controversy as a key player in the 2016 “ANC War Room” local election saga, a matter he says was resolved in his favour following a default judgement on a defamation case against Sihle Bolani and Sihle Bolani Communications in his favour.

More on the ANC War Room saga

Bidvest buyout

Bidvest Media, a division of Bidvest Group, had previously held a majority stake in Retroviral, which it acquired in 2015. Sharman would not comment on the share buyout from Bidvest required to facilitate the deal with Sisulu, citing a confidentiality agreement.

A new board for Retroviral is in the process of being appointed. Sisulu will serve as executive chairman, and Sharman will continue as company CEO.


Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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