Boss Of The Week

Adebayo Ogunlesi: Quintessential Businessman, Achiever Par Excellence

By Eric Elezuo

Wild fire is a mild situation in comparison to the spread of fortune, fame and personality of Nigerian-born American mega businessman, Adebayo Ogunlesi, who has an enviable reputation of ownership of three British airports, purchased within a space of six years. Not only that, he happens to be one of the few foreign appointees of the American President, Donald Trump, when he assumed office in 2016. His dexterity is not just commendable but highly efficient.

Born Adebayo O. Ogunlesi on December 20, 1953, the prolific lawyer and investment banker, who is better referred to as Bayo, is from Makun, Sagamu in Ogun State. His father was Theophilus O. Ogunlesi, the first Nigerian professor of Medicine at the University of Ibadan.

Bayo, as he is popularly called, attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos, Nigeria before proceeding to the Oxford University, England where he bagged a B.A. with first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

In 1979, the man who has been described as the ‘man who three airports’ by the Nigerian press,  received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, which he pursued at the same time because he was the type of person who would leave anything to chance. Again, during his time at Harvard, he was on the Harvard Law Review.

Ogunlesi kicked off his professional career pursuit in 1980 when he served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He was also an attorney in the corporate practice group of the New York City law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he had been a summer associate while studying for his M.B.A. His stint in these endeavours was short-lived as he quit in 1981

In 1983, he joined the investment bank First Boston as an advisor on a Nigerian gas project. While at First Boston, Ogunlesi worked in the Project Finance Group, with duty portfolios like advising clients on transactions and financings. He is also known to have worked on transactions in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Between 1997 and 2002, he was the Head of the Global Energy Group of the renamed Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). In 2002, he moved upward as he was appointed Global Head of CSFB’s Investment Banking Division. In the same year, he productive nature was rewarded as he was honoured with a place as a member of Credit Suisse’s Executive Board and Management Committee.

Between 2004 and 2006, the man of many entrepreneurial parts, served as Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer of CSFB, a position he unleashed the best skills, leading to maximum turnaround.

By July 2006, and having garnered enough background in every area of entrepreneurship, he floated his own 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.

It is with GIP that Ogunlesi started making inroads and taking advantage of the great business opportunities in aviation, as in the same 2006, GIP bought London City Airport, and followed it up with the acquisition in 2009, the majority in London Gatwick Airport in a deal worth £1.455 billion. Ogunlesi was not done though. He followed up his exploits with the buying of Edinburgh Airport, in 2012.

Ogunlesi’s achievements follow him like a leech. He has been professionally honoured as a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association and while working at Credit Suisse First Boston, he did  a double by becoming simulteneously a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School of Organization and Management, where he taught a course on transnational investment projects in emerging countries.

By October 2012, Ogunlesi has secured appointment to the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs, and two years later, precisely on July 24, 2014, he was named Lead Director.

In December 2016, however, it was announced that Ogunlesi, among other business leaders, would be part of Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. The Forum was however, disbanded on Aug 16, 2017. He is among many reputable recognisations, recipient of The International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence.

Much as he has lived in New York for 20 years and is active in volunteer work, Ogunlesi has for any reason forgotten his African roots and ties. He is known to informally advise the Nigerian government on privatization from time to time.

Since joining Credit Suisse in 1983, Ogunlesi has advised clients on strategic transactions and financing in a broad range of industries and has worked on transactions in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Bayo Ogunlesi has been married to his British-born Optometrist heartthrob, Dr. Amelia Quist-Ogunlesi, since 1985, and they are blessed with two adorable children.

Sir, for your ability to conquer your field of endeavor, and being a veritable ambassador of your country, Nigeria, you are our Boss of the Week. Congrats sir!

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