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The power of Pam

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Family remember property icon Golding after her death at age 89

If she hadn’t been one of South Africa’s top property agents, Pam Golding might have been a cabaret dancer.

This was revealed by her nephew Anthony Stroebel, general manager of all real estate services for the Pam Golding Property Group, during an interview this week about the death of the doyenne of South African property agents. She was 89, and would have turned 90 in September.

“She was one of three children. They were all very passionate, gregarious, outgoing, really the life and soul of the party. The two brothers, including my father Barry, were keyboard players. Pam loved music too, music and dancing.

“Almost to her final breath she was dancing. We had a company Christmas party in Constantia three months ago, and she was dancing.

“Her favourite artist was Frank Sinatra, and her favourite song, her signature song, was New York, New York. Yes, it will certainly be played at her funeral, and somewhere, as it’s played, she’ll be kicking her legs as high as she can.”

Some say Cecil Golding kept Pam’s feet on the ground and the company on the right side of the balance sheet. “He allowed her the space to develop herself and the business. Cecil was always the voice of reason and used to say, ‘take it easy’.” – Ken Woollcott, first Pam Golding Properties agent in Joburg. Picture: Supplied

To the wider world it was as an estate agent that Golding will be remembered.

Her daughter, Jilly Drummond, says: “We were living in our tiny rented cottage in Newlands. Pam was on the phone and I remember thinking, this is my mother talking to this big businessman, advising him to sell his house, which was not even on the market, for R100 000 – a huge price in those days.

“The deal was done. A record price for the time. She couldn’t believe it, and he couldn’t believe he had just sold a home he’d had no intention of selling. That was the start of the success, the path and the journey. The precedent was set. From there she developed a name: if you want to sell your home, go to Pam Golding, she’ll do it and she’ll do it properly.”

Stroebel describes Golding as a woman of warmth who had a way of engaging with people in a personal way.

“She was such an incredible businesswoman, at the cutting-edge, but balanced with empathy and warmth, caring and authentic engagement. She would light up a room.”

Read: The industry pays tribute to Pam Golding

           Pam Golding: Agency greats recall challenges faced in the early days            

           Gardening, roses and Pam Golding

           Property doyenne Pam Golding dies

Was she a ruthless businesswoman? 

“Ruthless? No. Mind you, you wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of Pam if you’d screwed up a deal. She’d let you know how she felt. 

“She hated to lose a deal. She got such a rush from creating magic between people. She always wanted to find a buyer for a seller and create magic in that moment.
“She came into a man’s world, and she just charmed her way into the upper echelons of business and real estate. People loved her.”

Drummond agrees: “Pam was involved, she was interested and she was current. She served on committees with prominent leaders and captains of industry from around the world. She took every opportunity to host international forums at home and to connect South Africa and, in particular, business and women leaders. 

Her son, Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property Group, says: “There are a few phrases I think of when I think about Pam. One is ‘press on regardless’ – the requirement to hang in there. This stood us in good stead to withstand the downturns. As a fast-growing, young business there were a number of occasions where we had to hang on and hang tough.

“It was this attitude, as well as a sense of responsibility to so many people who had given their unqualified loyalty to the business, that always compelled my parents to put everything back into the company. They were committed and prepared to risk everything for Pam Golding Properties.”

Her long-time publicist and friend, Niki Jackson, remembers when Golding opened the company’s Joburg office. “The unknown Pam Golding simply arrived: no stock, no agents and no office. She put a bold advertisement in The Star Property Guide that invited agents who were interested in selling high-end properties to meet her in a suite at the Sandton Sun.

“Six agents were recruited that day, which grew to 26 in the first year, doubling in size in only 18 months.

Picture: Supplied

Jackson says one of the most significant milestones of Golding’s career was the opening of a London office in 1986, at a time when South Africa had international pariah status.

“Many South Africans were struggling for change and imagining a brighter future for the country. One of them was Pam, who against all odds did the unthinkable by opening an office in Belgravia’s Motcomb Street.”

A British colleague, Victoria Mitchell, consultant director of Savills Ltd, remembers it well.

“I heard about Pam long before I met her. She was the talk of the town. Everyone in London was saying: ‘Have you met Pam Golding?’ She sort of sashays down Sloane Street every day. She is an agent par excellence. She just lives, thinks, breathes it. She’s glamorous, she’s attractive, she’s charming.” 

 Stroebel says: “We’re all devastated. The family is close. I loved Pam and admired her. Life won’t be the same. We’ll miss her a lot.”
She leaves three children and 10 grandchildren.

Golding’s memorial will be held at St George’s Cathedral at 10.30am on April 10.

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