Strictly speaking Consol has existed since May 1946 when it was incorporated as "Consolidated Glass Works Limited” and set about building a flagship factory in Wadeville, Germiston. In reality, though, Consol had its start in January 1944 when a young Johannesburg finance house acquired a pioneering glassworks in Pretoria. The finance house was Anglovaal, and the modest Pretoria Glass was the foundation on which the Consol of today was built.
For many years Consol stayed true to its origins and produced only glass containers and tableware. Even its' own employees referred to it as "Cons Glass”. In 1954 it merged with its only rival, Union Glass of Talana near Dundee in Northern Natal, founded in 1918 and for most of its history, a subsidiary of South African Breweries. In 1956 Consol built a new glassworks at Bellville in the Cape and in 1964 opened a factory in Gwelo to serve Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe. In 1982 a sixth glass factory was opened in Clayville, Midrand - Gauteng.
Together these glass plants made up a network through which Consol satisfied most of Southern Africa’s needs. Production and sales were co-ordinated from Consol’s head office in Wadeville. The same was true in the case of Consol Plastics, formed in 1962 when Consol acquired a small plastics factory in Pretoria previously run by Anglovaal. In 1963 the operation moved to Germiston and later it was enlarged and diversified. In the eighties Consol Plastics opened further factories in Natal, Ciskei and the Cape.
By that stage Consol was repositioning itself as a multifaceted packaging group. Consol Paper had its start in 1980 through the acquisition of a corrugating/converting operation in Alrode, South of Germiston. A few years later, two more plants were opened in Natal and the Cape. Each was situate close to a Consol Plastics counterpart, but was managed as a separate entity. Expanding still further, Consol acquired several outside businesses in the plastic and paper fields. Some were winners and those which disappointed were resold. Consol had two major competitors in the industry; Kohler and Nampak. Each of the three had its own strengths and specialities and it seemed there was no part of the industry that one or the other did not cover. Looking ahead to growth and expansion, senior management at the time recognised an opportunity to change direction and diversify into an area outside of packaging; this of course, would require the approval of Anglovaal.
Reaction was sympathetic. Anglovaal had been Consol's controlling shareholder from the outset and understood its situation very well. All that was needed was an opportunity, and when it came it might have been made to order. For some years Anglovaal's Chairman, Basil Hersov, had served on the boards of certain South African companies controlled by American parents. One of these was the rubber giant Goodyear. In 1989 mounting pressures at home convinced Goodyear's main board that it would have to disinvest from South Africa. Goodyear had been involved in South Africa since 1915 and in 1947 had opened an impressive tyre manufacturing plant at Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. For many years the management had consisted of Americans posted from Head Quarters, but gradually South Africans had filtered into senior positions. American parent considered it’s options and sounded out possible buyers. At first Basil Hersov fought the disinvestment, but when the decision seemed irreversible he brought in the cash-rich packaging company.
After a false start a satisfactory deal was negotiated. As part of it Consol and Goodyear signed a ten-year technical agreement by which Consol would be entitled to draw on Goodyear expertise and use the Goodyear and Kelly tradenames. Consol was familiar with that kind of agreement as it already enjoyed close ties with the Owens-Illinois group of America, the world leader in glass containers. (By coincidence, Goodyear and Owens-Illinois both had their Head Quarters in North Western Ohio – Goodyear in Akron and Owens-Illinois in Toledo.)
As planned, Consol had gained a second leg. Goodyear South Africa was renamed 'Tycon', but it’s operations continued as before (bar a prolonged strike by workers demanding compensation for the sale). At an early stage the rubber company’s South African managers persuaded Consol that it was essential to possess a tight distribution network. In 1990, then, Consol negotiated a merger between Tycon and Tredcor parent of the Mastertreads and TrenTyre retreading and retailing chains. Two years later Consol took full control.
Following the Tredcor deal, Consol's packaging and rubber divisions employed some 14000 people. Rubber accounted for half of them and coincidentally for half of Consol's turnover. This history of the group is arranged so as to reflect the balance. The first part tells the story of Consol's packaging interests from their origins to the start of negotiations with Goodyear in 1988. The second tells the rubber story over the same period, the third traces Consol's fortunes from 1988 and follows the group right up to the present.
- Consol Managing Director – Bob Adamson 1951 - 1961
- Consol Managing Director – Doc Donen 1961 - 1970
- Consol Managing Director – Ernest King 1970 – 1976;
- Consol Managing Director – Jan Robbertze 1976 – 1981;
- Consol Managing Director – Piet Neethling 1981 – 1997
- Consol Managing Director – Simon Crutchley 1997 - 2002
- Consol Managing Director – Mike Arnold 2002 - current