How Geregu CEO, Akin Akinfemiwa, Saved Me From Bankruptcy – Otedola
‘I Contemplated Suicide’ – Otedola
Their Relationship As A Gift of Providence
After he lost his fortune, it struck him that his father had always been his role model in life and the first thing he must do was to protect his name and integrity
When you are as wealthy as Femi Otedola, it could be hard to be humble. Yet Otedola affects staggering humility. The billionaire magnate ascribes his affluence not by virtue of any sharpness of sight solely on his part, or any personal distinction but to the support of men of colossal height.
The crust of pride, which remains the failing of many a billionaire, dissipates amid the fount of Otedola’s comeliness; the accomplished mogul affects infectious humbleness – makes it difficult to resent him.
Otedola’s modesty manifested in full bloom, recently, in London, United Kingdom (UK), at the 50th birthday celebration of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Geregu Power Plc., Akin Akinfemiwa.
At the event, Otedola revealed the remarkable role played by Akinfemiwa in salvaging his business and saving him from bankruptcy. In video recently posted by a news medium, Otedola described his first encounter with Akinfemiwa in 2005 as a gift of providence.
He disclosed that Akinfemiwa played a pivotal role in revitalizing his business (Forte Oil) when it ran into hard times. According to Otedola, he had hit rock bottom and was at the point where he actually contemplated taking his own life but after careful consideration, he jettisoned the idea.
Around the time that Akinfemiwa began working for Otedola, the billionaire magnate, faced a significant setback in 2008 when he incurred a loss of approximately $480 million.
This was due to a drastic drop in diesel prices. The shipment, comprising one million tons of diesel, experienced a price crash from $146 to $34 per barrel. Coupled with the devaluation of the naira, this unfortunate event led to Otedola’s exclusion from the Forbes billionaire list.
After he lost his fortune, it struck him that his father had always been his role model in life and the first thing he must do was to protect his name and integrity. Thus his decision to heal and recoup his fortune the old fashioned way, by dint of honest endeavour.
Just after the global banking crisis had struck, the Nigerian government established the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to buy up distressed loans. Otedola’s loan was sold to AMCON by his bank.
“Experience is the best teacher. I didn’t have a proper structure and I also put the blame on the banks for not advising me. All they were interested in was the profits. They were not interested in sustainability of the business, they were short-sighted and all they were interested in was throwing money at me. So they never advised me,” said Otedola.
The banks had to shave off about $400 million from the debt leaving Otedola $800 million in the red. AMCON offered him a restructuring deal, which Otedola declined. He opted instead to repay what he owed and start all over again.
“So we got a reputable firm to value my assets. I had about 184 flats, which I gave up. I was the largest investor in the Nigerian banking sector, which I gave up, I was also a major shareholder of Africa Finance Corporation and I was the Chairman of Transcorp Hilton. I was a shareholder in Mobil Oil Nigeria Limited, the second largest shareholder in Chevron Texaco, Visafone and several companies which they valued, and I had to give up to repay the debt,” revealed Otedola.
Acknowledging his part in the failure of his business, Otedola entrusted the remedial steps to Akinfemiwa. This strategic move turned out to be a turning point, solidifying the Geregu CEO’s standing in the energy sector.
“My relationship with Akin is what I would call, destiny prevails. In 2005 I had a friend that worked in Oando and she did mention to me that she has a colleague. And she called Akin and we spoke,” disclosed Otedola.
He said, “I set up my training company in London Fine shade energy, I was looking for a trader and I couldn’t find any good trader. I called Dimeji Edwards who was Akin’s boss. Akin picked up the phone to come and see me.
“So he came, and I said to him, listen I want to give you a job. Come and work for me. Then of course he went back to Wale and Mofe who were his bosses then. And they said you want to go and work for that man? That has sacked six CEOs in six years.
“Now, when I say destiny prevails, the business collapsed. I built a massive empire. I had 93 per cent of diesel at my fingertips. I was a bit playful, and the business collapsed. The option I had then was to commit suicide. Then, of course, I thought of Nana and the kids. And I said no, I won’t commit suicide.
“I will face reality and sack myself and the business. So, I sacked myself. I made Akin the CEO of the London office, and I was so impressed by the way he turned around the business. I gave him 1% of the business. I now later, made him the CEO of Zenon Oil, and then the CEO of African Petroleum.”
These measures were instrumental to his comeback; Otedola made an impressive comeback, acquiring stakes in major companies and consolidating his position in the business world.
These days, he is much wiser; there are systems in place to prevent a similar collapse of his business empire.