Bertie Lubner, the second generation behind PG Group (formerly Plate Glass), and one of the founders of the company that eventually became Belron International, has passed away. Lubner died yesterday at age 85 in Johannesburg, South Africa, just one day shy of his 61st wedding anniversary.
Bertie Lubner and his brother Ronnie Lubner, helped to build South African PG Group (formerly Plate Glass) into one of the country’s most successful companies and international powerhouse.
The Lubner family, originally from Lublin in Poland, arrived in South Africa from London in 1903. Bertie Lubner’s grandfather was a cabinet maker. His father, Maurice “Morrie” Lubner, would help found one of the largest automotive glass repair and replacement companies in the world. Plate Glass, the company his father helped to establish, had two main areas, one focused on glass, including automotive glass, and the other timber.
“Of the Lubner brothers, Bertie shared his father’s passion for timber, while Ronnie’s progress at Express was earning him a reputation as South Africa’s ‘Mr. Glass,’” according to the book “PGSI, One Hundred Years.”
In 1975, Bertie Lubner was named one of four managing directors. He would help oversee the timber area of business, while his brother Ronnie Lubner would oversee glass.
At 60, Bertie Lubner decided to retire from divisional responsibilities, though he remained on all main company boards. Ronnie Lubner became chief executive and PG’s offshore operation was repositioned as Belron International.
Even the name Belron is related to Bertie Lubner.
“[T]he original plan was to rename the company after the Lubner parents, Morrie and Bella—perhaps MorBel or BelMor. That was a no-no because in French it sounded like ‘bad death.’ We tried out all kinds of ideas and eventually plumped for Belron. The name held obvious echoes of Bella, Ronnie and indeed of BL, alias Bertie Lubner,” said Louis Shakinovsky in the PGSI history.
One of Ronnie Lubner’s first moves upon becoming sole chief executive was to restructure PG into four divisions: Glass South Africa and PG Bison in South Africa, PG Industries in Zimbabwe and Belron International in London.
In February 2007, Belron purchased Safelite AutoGlass.
Bertie Lubner established several non-profit organizations aimed at improving the lives of under-privileged youngsters in some of the most deprived areas in the country once he retired from PG Group.
One of them is MaAfrika Tikkun (meaning “transformation”)‚ which looks after children with feeding schemes and life-support programs in places in Africa‚ according to a local report.
He was also a great supporter of Israel, a member of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Board of Governors, and was awarded an honorary doctorate for lifetime achievement by the University in 2013. He was named one of The Jerusalem Post’s 50 Most Influential Jews in the world, according to another local report.
Lubner is survived by his wife, Hilary and four children, Marc, Tony, Susan and Richard.
He is the brother of Ronnie Lubner and the uncle of current Belron CEO Gary Lubner.