By Eric Elezuo
There are different kinds of men: those who identify opportunities and those use identified opportunities. Obviously, only those who make use of identified opportunities will definitely hit the bull’s eye. It is therefore, no wonder that the person of Mr. Femi Otedola both identified and made use of opportunities.
The second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to be included on the Forbes list of dollar-denominated billionaires, Femi Otedola, was born in 1962 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital to the family of one time Governor of Lagos State between 1992 and 1993, Sir Michael Otedola. He towed the path of humility and started his career at his father’s establishment, Impact Press.
Otedola is a businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who knows that opportunities are meant to be tapped and utilized, and so in 2003, having identified an opportunity in the fuel retail market, he secured the finance to set up Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, a petroleum products marketing and distribution company.
Striving in that same zeal, and as chairman of Zenon, in 2004, he invested N15 billion in downstream infrastructure development and acquired storage depots at Ibafon, Apapa as well as four cargo vessels, amounting to a combined total storage capacity of 147,000 metric tonnes. The same year he acquired a fleet of 100 DAF fuel-tanker trucks for N1.4 billion.
Gradually, he was developing and building an empire in the oil and gas industry.
Otedola did not limit himself to the whims and caprices of the oil sector alone, he is also the owner of a number of other businesses across shipping, real estate and finance, such as CentreForce Ltd, specialising in finance, investments and trading. He is also the owner of Swift Insurance. He has also recently invested in power generation as part of the liberalisation of the sector in Nigeria.
The big man is not one to be accused of the proverbial ‘chop alone…’ as he made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education. In 2005 Zenon donated N200 million to the scheme’s fund. Since its inception the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students.
In 2005, Otedola made a N300 million personal donation to the completion of the National Ecumenical Centre – Nigeria’s primary place of Christian worship – in Abuja. In 2007 he was among a group of donors who gave N200 million to the State Security Trust Fund in a drive to reduce crime in Lagos State. Later that year he donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe. In 2008 he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt.
A man of his caliber does not rest on oars, and so by 2005, his ingenuity had built Zenon towards controlling a major share of the Nigerian diesel market, supplying fuel to most of the major manufacturers in the country including Dangote Group, Cadbury, Coca Cola, Nigerian Breweries, MTN, Unilever, Nestle and Guinness.
In January 2006, he was appointed as a non-executive director of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, a multi-sectoral conglomerate established in 2004 by former President Obasanjo to respond to market opportunities requiring heavy capital investment in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa. He held this post until February 2011.
Subsequently, in March 2007, it was announced that ten banks had approved a syndicated loan of US$1.5 billion (N193.5 billion) to Zenon as working capital to build the largest premium motor spirit storage facility in Africa. Later that year Zenon acquired a 28.7 per cent stake in African Petroleum, one of Nigeria’s largest fuel marketers. As well as diesel, Zenon also became an important player in the kerosene market.
A non-relenting and shrewd businessman, Femi Otedola was in 2007 appointed Chairman and Chief Executive of Africa Petroleum through the acquisition of a controlling stake in the business. In December that year, he personally acquired a further 29.3 per cent of the company for N40 billion. A merger of this personal holding with Zenon’s brought Otedola’s total stake to 55.3 per cent.
His foresight following his entry into the company, African Petroleum’s share price rose sharply, increasing the market capitalisation from N36 billion to N217 billion in six months.
Femi Otedola has made a number of real estate investments, including a N2.3 billion acquisition in February 2007 by Zenon of Stallion House in Victoria Island in Lagos, from the Federal Government. He is the owner of FO Properties Ltd. His business acumen had drawn him closer most leaders of the nation including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
He is also in tune with humanity as in 2008, in response to public concerns over the availability and pricing of kerosene, African Petroleum launched an initiative to saturate the market and sell the fuel at N50 per litre from more than 500 service stations across Nigeria.
In October 2009, shortly after he became the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to appear on the Forbes list of dollar denominated billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. Otedola announced a move to upgrade African Petroleum’s liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage terminals in Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt. Though difficult economic conditions caused by the slump in world oil prices and credit squeeze of 2008–09 leading to African Petroleum’s loss in 2009, the company stood its ground and sought to rebrand.
The rebranding came in December 2010 and African Petroleum changed its name to Forte Oil Plc. Femi Otedola carried out a restructuring of the business, focusing on technology and improved corporate governance. Forte Oil returned to profit in 2012.
Otedola had, and is holding top management and diverse positions within Nigeria and elsewhere in the world today. He currently serves as Chief Executive and President of SeaForce Shipping Company Ltd, and was at one point Nigeria’s largest ship owner after extending control over the distribution of diesel products. One of his ships, a flat bottomed bunker vessel with a storage capacity of 16,000 metric tonnes, was the first of its kind in Africa.
He has served as a member of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) since 2004, and the same year was appointed to a committee tasked with developing commercial relations with South Africa. In 2011 Femi Otedola was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan to Nigeria’s National Economic Management Team.
Otedola would be known as a man who would not dent himself in the murky waters of corruption, so in 2012, when his company, Zenon, was listed among a number of companies named in a report into an alleged fuel subsidy scam, he refused to give in to the pressure of a legislator’s demand for gratification. According to the report, the legislator who compiled the report, Farouk Lawan, had demanded a bribe of $3m, supposedly to remove Zenon from the list.
The no-nonsense Otedola reportedly involved security agencies, who organized a sting operation, and caught Lawan red handed collecting $500,000 of a supposed total sum of $3m from Femi Otedola. Lawan was charged with corruption in February 2013.
In 2013, as part of the Federal Government’s push to liberalise Nigeria’s ailing power sector, Femi Otedola financed 57% of Forte Oil subsidiary Amperion Ltd, which acquired the 414 MW Geregu Power Plant for $132 million.
Forte’s improved financial position and diversification into power generation resulted in a 1,321 per cent rise in its share price during 2013. The first half of 2014 saw the company’s pre-tax profit more than double year-on-year to 4.19 billion naira ($25.7 million). Revenue growth for the whole year was 33 per cent. In November 2014 Otedola returned to the Forbes rich list having dropped off it following the fall in share price earlier in 2009.
In September 2015, Forte Oil sold 17 per cent of its equity to Swiss commodity trader Mercuria Energy Group, giving Forte access to global commodity markets. The deal was thought to have given Femi Otedola an estimated $200 million.
Femi Otedola is an accomplished family, whose entrepreneurial endeavours had not prevented from carrying out family mandates. He is married to Nana Otedola and has three beautiful daughters: Christine Oluwunmi, Florence Ifeoluwa and Elizabeth Temi, and a son, Fewa.
His clout in the business world has not beclouded his sense of identification. He is liberal and respects other people’s opinion. This is exemplified in the life of his second daughter, Florence Otedola, aka DJ Cuppy, who is an international DJ and music producer, as well as a tourism ambassador for Nigeria. Her younger sister, Temi, is a style blogger and aspiring designer.
He is the typical Epicurus son, and really knows how to live life. He owns homes in Lagos, Abuja, Dubai, London, and New York.
For your entrepreneurial discipline and family co-ordination, sir, you deserve to be the Boss of the Week. Congratulations Sir!