The reasons for the suicide attempt are not known, but friends said Van Tonder had been struggling recently with depression.
Van Tonder has only recently left Spur, following a long and very successful career with the restaurant chain, which he ran as MD and CEO for 24 years. He worked for Spur for 38 years, starting as a trainee manager at Seven Spur in Cape Town at the age of 23.
Current CEO Val Bourdos said people in the company were devastated by the news, and were trying to do what they could to support the family. The company would be making a formal statement later in the day.
Van Tonder was heralded for what he had done to build the company over the years. Spur currently has 640 franchise restaurants under the Spur, Panarottis, Hussar Grill and John Dory brands.
The coronavirus pandemic and the consequent shutdowns have obviously had an effect on the company, but it had generally been hanging in, and more recently trading in the company had revived somewhat.
In a recent interview published by News24, Van Tonder did not join with some other business leaders criticising the lockdown process, saying from a utopian point of view he would have liked the lockdowns to be lifted immediately, but he understood that the state had a fine balancing act to perform.
The company’s most recent results suggest it’s rebounding somewhat from the lockdown crisis, although total restaurant sales declined by 29.4% to R2.9 billion for the six months to 31 December 2020.
The company said trading has improved in February since the easing of Level 3 trading restrictions announced on 2 February 2021, which was encouraging for both the company and its franchisee partners. BM/DM