This is how Nigerian business mogul Tony Elumelu built a $700 million fortune

Abu Mubarik January 19, 2023
Tony Elumelu. Photo: Twitter/Tony Elumelu

Tony Elumelu is a Nigerian entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist with a net worth of $700 million, per Forbes’ estimates. He had previously been featured on Forbes as a billionaire but fell off the billionaire club.

Elumelu started his journey as a salesperson, a copier salesman to be specific. He worked at Allstates Trust Bank after completing his master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos.

“I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, and ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more,” he wrote in his cover letter.

He started as an entry-level analyst at Allstates Trust Bank and within a year, he became the youngest branch manager at age 27 by dint of hard work.

“I was hardworking, energetic, creative and prioritised getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo took notice, and then, believed in me,” Elumelu recounted

“They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognised in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.”

He made news in 1997 after leading a group of investors to take over a struggling commercial bank based in Lagos called Standard Trust Bank. By 2005, he had turned the fortunes of the bank around and merged it with the United Bank for Africa. The bank came to have over seven million customers while operating in 19 countries in Africa and in the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Aside from the bank, he came to have a controlling interest in Transcorp, a publicly traded Nigerian conglomerate with interests in hospitality, agriculture, oil production and power generation.

Forbes reported in 2015 that Elumelu also has investments in real estate across Nigeria and a minority stake in mobile telecom firm MTN Nigeria.

As a philanthropist, Elumelu has over the years donated towards many charity causes through his foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The Foundation’s TEF Entrepreneurship Programme has identified, trained, mentored, and funded 10,000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries.

“Mr Elumelu believes that youth entrepreneurship has the potential to tackle global challenges such as forced migration, poverty, and hunger,” a statement on the foundation’s website says.

He sits on several public and social sector boards including the World Economic Forum Community of Chairmen and the Global Board of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited. He was named in the 2020 Time 100 Most Influential People in the World, recognized for his business leadership and economic empowerment of young Africans.

The businessman is married with five children.

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