Meet the Nigerian billionaire who owns some of the major airports in the world

Stephen Nartey June 23, 2023
In 2009, Adebayor's private quity firm, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), acquired majority shares in London's Gatwick Airport for £1.455 billion. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, the investor community and Africa welcomed the inclusion of Adebayor Ogunlesi among 16 business leaders selected by US President Donald Trump for his administration’s Strategic and Policy Forum. The role of the business leaders was to advise the presidency on how to improve the economy to engender growth and create jobs, according to Trump White House.

Barely a year into its existence, the forum was disbanded by the Trump administration. While many perceived the removal of the founder of the New York-based private equity firm, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), as a vote of no confidence in the forum, others interpreted it as a move influenced by the racial sentiments of white supremacists at the time. Either way, no reasons were assigned.

However, Adebayor is not new to walking the path of uncertainties; he broke many glass ceilings as a young African who traveled to the United States to pursue his American dream, and was one of three foreign students in a class who broke Harvard Law School’s tradition of admitting students who hadn’t been born in the US. He was also among the first two black editors to work at the Harvard Law Review.

The Nigerian lawyer was the first African to work as an associate clerk to the prominent justice, Thurgood Marshall, according to Lanre Dahunsi. After the Trump debacle, Adebayor focused on his business with the same optimism and determination he channeled to navigate the storms he encountered during his early years in the US.

He began his private equity firm, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), in 2006. At the beginning of the business, it operated as a joint venture with the support of investors such as General Electric and Credit Suisse. GIP globally invests in the transport, energy, and waste industry. Since its inception, the company has grown into a conglomerate that manages assets worth $74 billion on behalf of its investors and employs a staff of 62,000 people.

Adebayor’s influence in the business community has earned him the moniker, ‘silent billionaire’. This is largely attributed to the strategic business decisions GIP has made since it commenced business. In 2006, the business bought the London City Airport from the Irish financier, Dermot Desmond, for £750 million, and later sold the airport to a Canadian-led consortium of pension funds for around £2 billion in 2016.

In 2009, it acquired majority shares in London’s Gatwick Airport for £1.455 billion. Three years later, the company purchased the Edinburgh Airport – one of the busiest airports in Scotland. Aviation statistics indicate that Edinburgh Airport in 2019 witnessed air traffic of over 14.7 million passengers.

Adebayor’s business also has a dominant presence in the transport sector. These investments include Great Yarmouth Port Company, Access Midstream Partners; Biffa Group Limited; Port of Brisbane, Terminal Investment Limited, Port of Melbourne; Pacific National; Italo, among others.

In 2018, GIP purchased Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, according to Naira Metrics. The company also boasts of investments in the energy sector; such as Vena Energy, Hess Infrastructure Partners, Naturgy Energy Group, Guacolda Energia, Freeport LNG, CPV, and Saeta Yield/Bow Power, among others.

Clearly, Adebayor does not make noise about his wealth, however, he is an influential player in the energy and transport sectors.

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: June 23, 2023


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