Unravelling the persona of a business colossus
By Lanre Alfred
A recent article on the 10 coolest billionaires in the world compiled by Global Super Brands, featuring Globacom Chairman, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr, is another eloquent testament to his vast wealth and unassuming nature, writes Lanre Alfred
Not that it tickles his fancy or gives him the kicks, but a recent article on the 10 coolest billionaires in the world by Global Super Brands, the world’s largest independent arbiter of branding, featuring the Chairman of Globacom, Dr Mike Adenuga, further shows what Nigerians he might be Nigeria’s wealthiest but most understated billionaire of all time.
The article attempts to draw a parallel between the new set of billionaires in music, tech, and arts, among other sectors, and older men who have spent decades honing their crafts. Until recently, the article posited that the mention of billionaires evoked pictures of boring older individuals who have spent decades honing their craft.
“The times are shifting, and much younger people have worked hard to amass wealth while maintaining their individualities and peculiarities,” said the publication. “While tons of young billionaires have sprung up from music, tech, arts, and many more sectors, there are the not-so-young who in the face of a vastly changing world, continue to define their own sense of being and nothing could be cooler. They all find an intersection in their coolness.”
It was not a surprise that Adenuga’s name featured prominently on the list, including Tesla founder Elon Musk, Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson, and Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the third generation heiress of the world’s largest family cosmetics company, L’Oreal.
The report claimed that although Forbes values Adenuga at $6.1 billion, “with their methodology principally focused on stocks and most of Mike’s wealth hedged elsewhere, his wealth has been said to be understated by at least $10 billion.”
According to the publication, Adenuga is worth closer to $20 billion in real terms, and that is not where his coolness derives, though. The publication notes that the Globacom honcho is one billionaire in that you “wouldn’t see him at any random event, you will not hear him quoted in the papers or on TV.” But his impact pervades philanthropy, business, sports, and contemporary culture.
“Talk about a spirit; manages his space and energy and also gets to make the universe move in the direction of his thoughts,” the report added. “In a world where billionaires crave the attention of the ruling class and the media, nothing could be cooler than to know that there is one that would rather everyone comes to him instead. The important ones do.”
Animated conversations, locally and internationally, have trailed the report’s publication, signposting an honour well-deserving of Adenuga’s stature. In an era when both the mainstream and new media commit the systemic looting of accolades, heaping it on undeserving social symbols and demagogues, Adenuga, who holds the French and Ghanaian highest national honours, attracts recognition by dint of his good works.
Notwithstanding his depth as an entrepreneur, stylist, philanthropist and citizen of humanity, Adenuga covets no vanities. He demands no free verses, heroic couplets or ornamental rhymes to glorify his personage as a man. However, it is often said if Adenuga does not strike you, at first sight, then possibly, he is a masterpiece of a man disguised as a blank canvas. The multibillionaire affects a flurry of beings curled into one: he is science, an art, a foundation of genius with dashes of brilliance brightening the creativity of his mind and soul, thus illumining the world.
A product of pure intellect, vision, and sheer enterprise, he can become any form he creates. He is a library of masterpieces, an intricate web of sensitivity and hope attuned in full measure to the world’s needs, a glimpse of who he truly is.
Globacom, Nigeria’s second national carrier, is considered Adenuga’s cash cow because it is the fastest growing telecommunications company in Africa, with a subscriber base of over 55 million and a vast network of fibre optics crisscrossing all parts of Nigeria, including a submarine cable that runs from the United States of America to Lagos through the United Kingdom and 17 other European and African countries. He founded and developed Devcombank and Equitorial Trust Bank into highly profitable companies that played active pioneering roles in developing the economy’s public, commercial and retail sectors. The banks were consolidated into one (EquitorialTrust Bank) and later merged with Sterling Bank Plc, with Adenuga as the largest shareholder.
The multibillionaire philanthropist also owns 74.4 per cent of Conoil, one of Nigeria’s largest petroleum marketing businesses, through Conpetro Limited. The first indigenous company in Nigeria to explore, discover and produce oil in large commercial quantities, with the fastest on-stream production activity from licence award to the first production in only nine months, Conoil sells diesel, kerosene, low-pour fuel, aviation fuel, and gasoline. It produces and markets lubricants under the ‘Quatro’ brand name. It has over 1200 retail outlets all over the country and is the acknowledged leader of development in modern retail outlets such as mega stations and non-space pumps in the new look retail outlets. Aside from operating six oil blocks in the Niger Delta, Conoilis also the market leader in aviation fuels.
Despite a considerable reduction in its top-line performance in the first half of 2022, the company reported double-digit percentage growth in earnings. According to its half-year financial report, profit increased 70.5 per cent to N1.81 billion ($4.35 million) in the first half of 2022 from N1.06 billion ($2.55 million) in the first half of 2021 despite a double-digit decline in revenue Adenuga reportedly received a N1.29 billion ($3.1 million) dividend as a portion of the dividends distributed to shareholders. That is from just one company.
Likewise, Adenuga owns a 25.1 per cent stake in construction giant Julius Berger through Goldstones Estates Limited. As profits surged by double digits in December 2021, Adenuga gained $7.2m on his stakeholding. His daughter, Bella Adenuga-Disu, serves as a non-executive director on the board of Julius Berger.
Yet, while fellow billionaires changed their personalities and honed their skills to conform to the dictates and challenges of the realities of the day, wealth has not in any way changed the persona of Adenuga, who remains impressively unassuming and immune to self-conceit. He is like the mango tree. The more fruits he bears, the lower he bows in humility. For Adenuga, success comes with the weight of humility.
Indeed, Adenuga’s famed self-effacing nature is innate, not cosmetic or contrived. That effortless detachment from the hype and hoopla that come with being one of Africa’s wealthiest men marvels as close watchers. Unlike other billionaires who covet and lobby far and wide for a mention on the Forbes Rich List, deploying huge resources to push their rating because it satiates their conceit, Adenuga is markedly different. He pays no heed to such faux attention, media obsequiousness, and arguments that he is bestowed with wealth far beyond the worth ascribed to him in previous Forbes Rich Lists. Adenuga is unperturbed by such guesses.
Having recorded a series of remarkable firsts in the highly competitive world of local and international commerce, there are no more worlds for Adenuga to conquer. Frequently likened to a champion and, sometimes, a business colossus, Adenuga depicts the image of a modern General of Commerce. He has created a legendary brand in Globacom. But rather than submit to the rigours and pressures of commerce, he towers in excellence, thus, creating a powerhouse that Africa can be proud of.