Tony Elumelu MFR, CON

Tony Elumelu MFR, CON

December 30
09:50 2020

The Tony Elumelu story is a real life grass to grace story which one is thankful that he readily tells, to inspire millions of his fellow Africans to not allow their circumstance hinder them from dreaming big, thinking big or aiming big. This is one man who has made good and is determined to spend the rest of his life giving others the opportunity to do the same. His story inspires not just because he lifted himself from obscurity to become one of the most successful and influential Africans in the world but because he recognizes the significant part, good fortune played in his success story, as he came across people in his life journey who were kind enough to give him a chance. Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heir Holdings, UBA PLC, Transcorp PLC and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is a highly successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Anthony Onyemaechi Elumelu was born on March 22, 1963 in Jos, Plateau State. He is an indigene of Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local government area of Delta State. He attended Ambrose University, Delta State where he graduated with Bachelor’s Degree in Economics after which he obtained his Master’s Degree in the same discipline from the University of Lagos. He later attended the highly acclaimed Harvard Business School for it’s Advanced Management program.

Tony got his first taste of banking when he served at Union Bank for his National Youth Service year. The young man who had once been a photocopying machine salesman then sought permanent employment in the banking sector and applied to All States Bank. Undeterred by the requirement of a 2:1 (second division, upper level) degree by All States Bank’s job advert, he submitted his application, explaining in his cover letter that his degree result doesn’t in anyway reflect his intellect or abilities and that he would impress his prospective employees with his performance, if only he would be given the chance. The Chairman of the Bank was impressed by the apparent drive, confidence and persistent nature of the young man and decided to give him a chance. This marked one of the many instances of unmerited favour he encountered on his way up and as he had assured his employer’s, he delivered. His performance was so outstanding that he was made a branch manager within the first year and quickly rose to become a regional manager and then the Executive Chairman of the Bank owned subsidiary, Linkage Assurance Ltd.

Almost inevitably, the time soon came when Tony had to inform his employer that he wanted to branch out on his own, so he resigned. After deciding on the strategy of acquisition, Tony sourced for investment from friends and associates and in partnership with a few of his close friends, he set about looking for an insolvent bank he could takeover and turnaround. Together, they incorporated a company, BGL, as the vehicle they would use and quickly, they identified a failing bank which they believed they could acquire and in good time, make profitable. Merchant Bank of Commerce was acquired and renamed Continental Trust Bank. With Tony at the helm, they made a huge success of it and that was the beginning of a reputation he and his team garnered for themselves as turnaround experts. This success encouraged them to look for a distressed commercial bank and they found that in Chrystal Bank. In no time, Tony and his team revived the bank, and Standard Trust Bank, as it was rechristened ranked in the top five financial institutions in the country.

By 2005, the Tony Elumelu led Standard Trust Bank merged with, but in effect acquired UBA PLC to create the third biggest bank in Nigeria. In a country still new to the idea of mergers and acquisitions in the financial sector, this was an audacious move. The merger resulted in a new UBA PLC with over 380 branches and over seven million customers. Swiftly too, the bank began to live up to it’s name as a pan African bank by opening subsidiaries in several West African countries.

In 2010, following a CBN directive that bank Managing Directors cannot exceed a maximum period of ten years in that position, Tony stepped down from the helm of UBA PLC. He subsequently established his family owned investment company, Heirs Holdings in Lagos and branched out into other sectors of the economy. In 2011, Heirs Holdings went on to acquire Transcorp PLC which has substantial investment in agribusiness, hospitality, oil and gas, real estate, financial services and the power sector. In 2010 he founded the Lagos based Tony Elumelu Foundation, his philanthropic vehicle which committed to awarding $100m of grants over a ten year period to 10,000 budding entrepreneurs across the African continent.

When one looks at Tony Elumelu’s beginnings, one would be right to describe him as a proud Nigerian from the south-south part of the country but now, one would also be right to describe him as a leader who cannot be defined by any geographical boundaries except as an African. His stature, his influence and the impact of his entrepreneurial and philanthropic activities can be felt across the whole continent as he yearns to see the rise of all Africans. This yearning drives his philosophy, Africapitalism.

Tony has served on the board and has been an advisor to numerous bodies both locally and internationally. Some of these are: Member of the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council; Chairman of the Ministerial Committee to establish international standard hospitals and diagnostic centres across Nigeria; Vice Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria; Advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partner’s Forum; Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security; member of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative; Fellow of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative; Partnership with the former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair with the Blair-Elumelu Fellowship Program and co-Chair of the Africa Energy Leaders Group.

In recognition of his laudable achievements, particularly in the corporate world, Mr Elumelu has received various awards and decorations. Some of these are; Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, 2003; African banker of the year by African Banker magazine, 2008; African Business leader of the year by Africa Investor magazine, 2008; National Honour of Commander of the order of Niger (CON), 2012; Africa’s 20 most powerful people by Forbes magazine, 2012; 100 Most Influential Africans in Business by New African Magazine, 2012; Honorary Doctorate of Science Degree From Benue State University, 2012; Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from UNN, 2012; Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the AAI, 2013; ESI Most influential Figures in African Power, 2015.

Undoubtedly, Mr Tony Elumelu’s life has been one of almost unimaginable success. Forever conscious of his relatively humble beginnings and grateful to now have the chance to count Presidents and Prime Ministers amongst his friends, he always remembers how on several occasions, he was given a “leg up” when he needed. Speaking humbly to this fact, he once said, “Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way.”

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December 2020