Adebayo Ogunlesi, called ‘Bayo, by family and friends, was born in Nigeria in 1953, the son of the first Nigerian-born professor of medicine to earn tenure at a medical school in his own country. Ogunlesi went to England in the 1970s to study philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree with honors. He was accepted by Harvard Law School as one of three foreign students in his class, even though the school did not usually admit students who had been born and educated outside the United States at the time.
At Harvard, Ogunlesi and W. Randy Eaddy became the first two editors of African descent to serve together on the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Ogunlesi also enrolled at the Harvard Business School at the same time that he was studying law. Although he did not intend to pursue a business career, he thought that courses in finance would help him overcome his fear of numbers. He finished his MBA program in 1978 and earned his law degree magna cum laude in 1979. Ogunlesi then served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1980 to 1983. He was the first non-American ever to clerk at the nation’s highest court.
In 1983 Ogunlesi became an associate of the prestigious New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore after having worked for the firm as an intern. He had been practicing law for only nine months, however, when he was called by First Boston, an investment bank. The bank was helping the Nigerian government finance a $6 billion liquefied natural gas project. Its contact in Nigeria was a personal friend of Ogunlesi. The bankers at First Boston asked Cravath, Swaine if they could borrow Ogunlesi for three months to facilitate the deal.
MOVING TO FIRST BOSTON
Three months at the investment bank turned into 20 years. Ogunlesi’s superiors at First Boston were pleased with his work and offered him a permanent position even though his homeland was in turmoil. He told the New York Times on one occasion, & Six months after I got here, there was a coup in Nigeria, the government got tossed out and my friend almost went to jail (March 14, 2002). He rose through the ranks at First Boston from associate to head of the project-finance group. Ogunlesi spent much of his time traveling through countries regarded as emerging markets, where he brokered deals among lenders, governments, and firms developing such large projects as oil refineries, natural gas plants, and mines. The lenders recovered their investments from the proceeds of the projects funded.
Ogunlesi was soon promoted to managing director of the project-finance group at First Boston. Over time his team absorbed several others, including the power, oil and gas, and chemicals groups. In 1993, this amalgamated unit was officially renamed the “Global Energy Group, but was informally dubbed -The Bayosphere. Known for his competitive spirit, Ogunlesi installed a foosball table in his office and had his name painted on one of the goalies; his way of saying that he was taking on the competition.
In 1997 First Boston was acquired by the Credit Suisse Group and renamed Credit Suisse First Boston, or CSFB. Ogunlesi became the head of the new firm’s global investment banking division in 2002 at the age of 48. At that time global investment banking was one of CSFB’s most influential divisions, employing 1,200 bankers and managing $2.8 billion in assets. Ogunlesi was also given seats on the bank’s board of directors and its powerful 15-member operating committee. The chief executive of CSFB, John J. Mack, praised the new appointee in a press release. ‘Bayo Ogunlesi is a banker of powerful intellect, integrity and innovation. He has a broad global perspective and keen understanding of complex financial transactions. Our clients worldwide have benefited greatly from his strategic insight’s (February 20, 2002). Another colleague put it more simply,He’s the smartest guy in the room ( New York Times , March 14, 2002).
Other accolades quickly followed the news of Ogunlesi’s appointment. Time magazine named Ogunlesi to its 2002 Global Influentials list of the 15 most-promising young executives, while Fortune ranked him as the Seventh Most Powerful Black Executive in the United States.
Ogunlesi’s first task after his promotion was to cut costs in the investment banking division, which had lost nearly $1 billion the previous year. The division was overstaffed as well as ineffective. Ogunlesi furloughed 300 bankers and 50 managing directors in the first few weeks of his new job. He also asked the remaining staff to accept pay cuts and reduce expenses. His economy measures showed some success when the bank’s revenues in the following quarter increased by 25 percent.
The early years of the twenty-first century brought more difficult challenges. First, a bear market that started in 2000 made new financing difficult to find. Next, off-balance-sheet financing lost public favor when the energy company Enron abused the technique in order to hide its debts and risky investments, which contributed to its collapse in the winter of 2001. Still another scandal erupted in 2002, when some analysts at CSFB and other large brokerage firms were accused of openly giving some stocks a buy rating while secretly telling their larger clients to steer clear of them. CSFB and nine other firms eventually paid out $1.4 billion in 2003 to settle the charges without admitting guilt. Ogunlesi told New Zealand’s Dominion Post that new rules had been enacted to create a very clear separation between equity market research and investment banking functions. Those rule changes would limit future conflicts of interest and help restore confidence in broker recommendations.
In addition to Ogunlesi’s work at CSFB, he served as cochair of the Global Economic Forum’s 2003 Africa Economic Summit and as an informal adviser to the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. Ogunlesi also raised funds for education and African charities (Black Herald – September 9, 2007)
Born Adebayo Ogunlesi in 1953, the investment guru is the son of Theophilus Ogunlesi of Makun, Sagamu, Ogun state. According to his Wikipedia page, his father is the first Nigerian professor of medicine.
Mr Ogunlesi went to King’s College, Lagos, and received a B.A. with first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University in England. He received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1979 and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, which he pursued at the same time.
The businessman also served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court, in the early 1980s.
In 1983, he joined the investment bank First Boston as an advisor on a Nigerian gas project and worked in the Project Finance Group, advising clients on transactions and financings and has worked on transactions in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
“The Man who bought Gatwick Airport”
In July 2006, Mr Ogunlesi started the private equity firm, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a joint venture, whose initial investors included Credit Suisse and General Electric. He currently serves as Chairman and Managing Partner. GIP bought London City Airport in 2006 and by 2009, it acquired the majority in London Gatwick Airport, in a deal worth £1.455 billion.
For his industry and feats, Mr Ogunlesi is largely addressed as “The Man Who Bought Gatwick Airport”, especially in Nigerian media. Mr Ogunlesi’s GIP owns Edinburgh Airport, which it bought in 2012, as well as Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, which it bought in February, 2018.
In the past, Mr Ogunlesi has served as informal adviser to Nigerian leaders, notably former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2016, United States’ president, Donald Trump, appointed Mr Ogunlesi and others as advisers.
Mr Trump picked him to join other chief executives in an advisory council. Other members of the advisory council were Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and co-founder of Blackstone; Paul Atkins, CEO, Patomak Global Partners, LLC, former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Mary Barra, chairman and CEO, General Motors; Toby Cosgrove, CEO, Cleveland Clinic; among other investment and economic experts.
But in August 2017, Mr Trump dissolved the councils. “Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the manufacturing council and strategy and policy forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Mr Trump said in a tweet announcing the dissolution.
This outstanding first class airport owner is a Nigerian born lawyer. He is a highly successful investment banker and private equity tycoon. He is the founder, chairman and managing partner of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York-based private equity firm with over 35billion in assets under-investment. Adebayo Ogunlesi is also the lead director at Goldman Sachs where he is the chair of the Governance committee. He actually decides what goes on in the board’s agenda and that’s the basic element in ensuring that they have some strong leadership on the board.
Mr. Adebayo is brilliant, super-rich, sound and highly refreshing whenever he discusses the implementation of his projects, and his business acumen is world-class. In 2010, Adebayo, through his company, made international headlines when he led the bid for the acquisition of the London Gatwick Airport from the British Airport Authority (BAA) in a recorded 1.15-billion-pound deal. The acquisition instantly propelled Ogunlesi into the global spotlight and earned him a place I history as the man who acquired London’s second-largest international airport.
British Airport Authority failed to scale through the recession and dwindling passenger numbers. In 2009, the airport recorded a pre-tax loss of over 780 million pounds. When Adebayo acquired the airport, he promised to make the airport a truly first class international airport and substantially improve patronage and customer experience. You know what? He actually did it. He turned Gatwick Airport into the most beautiful, most elegant, most inviting and one of the most profiting international airports around the world. If you are around London or flying to London, I suggest you fly through Gatwick Airport ad experience one of the most beautiful international Airports in the world. You will surely love the experience.
The purchase of Gatwick Airport may have grabbed all the headlines and made all the news but Adebayo’s company, GIP, has some other noteworthy assets in its portfolio. To kick start his chains of investment especially in the aviation industry, Mr. Adebayo’s company bought London City Airport for an estimated 750million pounds in 2006. Adebayo Ogunlesi spearheaded a series of operational improvements aimed at boosting capacity and improving the operating offering and service quality.
According to information available on GIP’s corporate website, London City Airport passenger numbers grew a 22% in its first 4 years of ownership. Adebayo recently sold the airport fir a whooping 2billion pounds to a Canadian Pension Fund.
In 2012, Adebayo’s company also added Edinburgh Airport to its portfolio. The former operator of this airport, British Airport Authority, sold the airport to Adebayo Ogunlesi. Adebayo also has a substantial stake in Biffa Limited, a UK based waste management company. Leaving the international scenes and coming down to Africa, Adebayo has helped champion the African Economic Renaissance. In 2009, he was appointed chairman of the Africa finance Corporation (AFC), a financial institution set up to revamp Africa’s critical infrastructure and invest in key sectors of the continent’s economy.
In Nigeria, Ogunlesi was spearheading the corporations attempt to address the country’s epileptic power supply. In January 2011, it hosted a power sector round table to examine the key issues., identify the constraints and proffer practical solutions to the challenges facing the Independent Power Plants (IPP) in the country.
In a speech, he said, rather than him blame the Chinese, he opined that the responsibility has to lie on the government and the people of the country. He said that if Nigeria brokered a deal with the Chinese to spend lots of funds on railroads, then he thinks that would be great and it is up to Nigeria to make sure that development happens and make sure the infrastructure they build serves their need. He said he had no problem with China as a source of capital for the country.
Adebayo’s passion for his home country has seen him advising successive governments’ fiscal policies, strategic management, and economic development. A lot is yet to be unravelled about this super talented genius from Nigeria which I can’t capture completely here. This piece was written to motivate Nigerians to do more. Adebayo Ogunlesi has set the pace. It’s time for all of us to follow.
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