By Eric Elezuo
When billionaire businessmen and globally renowned philanthropists, Ronald and Gilbert Chagoury, made a billion naira donation to the government of Lagos State, not many people were surprised. The pair, who are proud owners of the prestigious Eko Hotels and Suites, situated in highbrow Victoria Island, Lagos, are not newcomers to philanthropism, they are outright supporters of governments, corporate organisations, the needy and even the downtrodden in the society.
Of Lebanese origin, but proudly Nigerians, with a host of business concerns in Nigeria and the African suburb, including Eko Atlantic City, HITEC Construction Company Limited, ITB Contraction Limited, Ronald and Gilbert boosted the fight and containment of the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic with N1 billion donation to Lagos government, so far the single largest donation to the state. The likes of Tony Elumelu, Femi Otedola, Aliko Dangote among others also made N1 billion donation, but to the Federal Government.
Very unassuming gentlemen, the Chagoury brothers’ silence is as large as their philanthropy; the more the give, the less it is broadcasted. They obviously choose to follow the footsteps of the guru himself and Chairman, Globacom, Chief Michael Adenuga, who gives without as much as making a whimper.
Lagos State, it is on record, is the epicentre of the Coronavirus disease in Nigeria recording over 145 cases as at press time.
The generosity of the billionaire businessmen is not limited to the billion naira donation, but also 300 plates of meals per day to the government to feed patients suffering from the disease and health workers taking care of the patients. You can only imagine the quality of such meals!
Operating under the Chagoury Group, an industrial conglomerate, which was founded in 1971, Ronald and Gilbert are linked to construction, real estate and property development, flour mills, water bottling and purification, glass manufacturing, insurance, hotels, furniture manufacturing, telecommunications, IT, catering and international financing. One can only name a trade, and you will be sure the Chagoury brothers have a hand in it. That is how versatile they are, and will ever remain.
In the late 1970s, they founded the C & C Construction company, which midwife other construction arms of the group vis a vis Hitech and ITB. And together, they form the Construction Division of the Chagoury group of Companies.
According to Wikipedia, the group is worth over $4.2 billion, and has a remained a formidable force in corporate social responsibility and wholesome philanthropism.
Gilbert Chagoury, who is the elder of the Chagoury brothers, was born to Lebanese immigrant parents in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied at the Collège des Frères Chrétiens in Lebanon before returning to Nigeria.
Politically inclined, Gilbert has held many positions across Africa and the Americas. He once served as Economic Adviser to President Mathieu Kérékou of Benin Republic, ambassador to UNESCO and the Vatican for St. Lucia an Ambassador and Adviser to governments in Africa and the Americas.
His entrepreneurial skills and ability to solve political and commerce related challenges gave him a leeway to access top government functionaries and leaders including former Nigeria’s maximum leader, General Sani Abacha, who helped his business interests in the country. He remains a major donor to the Clinton Foundation.
Gilbert is also a major benefactor of major organisations some of which are St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and Miziara, Northern Lebanon, where his wife comes from.
Highly versatile, he serves on the board of the Lebanese American University, and is known to have made a donation of $10 million to fund the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine and another $3.5 million for the construction of the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing.
The Louvre’s Gilbert et Rose Marie Chagoury Gallery, housing a permanent exhibit including French works donated, is named after him and his wife. It is on record that Gilbert has donated in excess of $340,000 for the renovations of the Church of Our Lady of Lebanon in Paris, France. He has also donated US$10,000 to the Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden in Beverly Hills, California.
A prolific family man, in 1969, he married Rose Marie Chamchoum, daughter of Lebanese-born, West Africa based industrialist Nabih Chamchoum and his wife Emilie.
Ronald Chagoury is the younger of the Chagoury brothers, who was born on January 8, 1949 to Labanese immigrants, Ramez and Alice Chagoury. Like his brother, Ronald also studied at the College des Frères Chrétiens in Lebanon before proceeding to California State University, Long Beach, US where he learnt the rudiments of business and entrepreneurship.
He is married to Berthe, the daughter of Blanche and Eduard Awad, and they have two children.