From Taxi Driver and Security Guard to a Billionaire with a Networth of US$9.4 billion

Mar 27 2020
Kwasi Godson
Mike Adenuga

CEO/Founder: Globacom Limited
Chairman: Conoil Producing Ltd
Age: 66
Nationality: Nigerian
Net worth: US$9.4 billion

Background Story:

He was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, in 1953 to a low-income family. His father was a school teacher while his mother was a businesswoman.

He received his secondary school education at Ibadan Grammar School and Comprehensive High School for his Higher School Certificate (HSC)

In his late teens, he left for the United States to study Business Administration at Northwestern University and Pace University.
He worked as a taxi driver and a security guard at night to pay for his education.

After completing his studies, he returned back home to Nigeria and inherited a small Sawmill operation from his father.

He worked at the sawmill but at the same time ventured into commodity trading such as Coca-Cola and the importation of lace materials.

“I went on a trip to New York and when I was coming back, I missed my flight on British Airways. So I had to fly Swiss Air and I sat next to the owner of one of the biggest lace manufacturing factories in Austria. So, we were talking and he got me into the business of importing lace, and all sort of things.”

In 1979 at the age of 26, he made his first US$1 million through the commodity trading and the importation of lace materials.

Still, in his twenties, he ventured into the construction business.

He had some influential friends in his circles. With the help of Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president of Nigeria he was able to land lucrative government construction contracts, which he delivered. He soon built a reputation for quality service and prompt delivery and earned the trust of several top-ranking government officials. It was not long before he cemented his position as a top government contractor, and bigger contracts followed.

In 1989 he applied for a banking license and founded Devcom Bank, one of Nigeria’s earliest merchant banks. A year later, he founded Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB), which has grown to become one of the country’s most successful commercial banks.

Conoil Producing Company, Nigeria

In 1984, he founded Consolidated Oil, the predecessor of Conoil Producing, as an integrated upstream oil and gas company in Lagos, Nigeria.

In 1990, he received a drilling license and Consolidated Oil became the first Nigerian indigenous company to strike crude in the shallow waters of Southwestern Ondo State on December 1991.

Conoil Producing is now one of Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil companies with at least 6 producing deep offshore assets and daily production of over 100,000 barrels per day.

In 2000, in the wake of a government-engineered privatisation exercise, he acquired a controlling stake in National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company Plc (NOLCHEM), a petroleum marketing company.

Within a year, he turned around the fortunes of the company. NOLCHEM, which he subsequently renamed Conoil PLC. It is now one of Nigeria’s largest petroleum marketers. Conoil has over 1200 retail outlets spread across Nigeria and is one of the top companies at the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The company has a market capitalization in the region of $200 million.

In 2005, following a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s directive that required all banks to raise their capital base to N25 billion, he merged Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) with Devcom to meet the new recapitalization requirements. The merged banks adopted the Equitorial Trust Bank name, and for a while, it was one of the largest banks in Nigeria before Adenuga opted to sell it off in 2011 to Sterling Bank, a commercial bank in Nigeria.

In 2011, he acquired the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 30 onshore oil block which was previously owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPCC), after a reported winning bid of $1.3 billion.


In 2003, he founded his mobile phone network Globacom commonly known as GLO.His telecom company Globacom spread quickly and started challenging the giant MTN Group. It currently has operations in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic and Cote d’Ivoire and is arguably operating the fastest-growing telecom company in Africa with an active subscriber base in excess of 45 million making it the second-largest network operator in Nigeria. It employs over 3,000 employees.

In 2010, Adenuga spent over $1 billion on Glo 1 Submarine Cable, an undersea cable system, which stretches from Europe to Nigeria and has landing stations in 16 West African countries. Glo 1 provides bandwidth to all telecom operators, carriers and corporations, connecting them to all the major destinations in the world.

The submarine cable system is 9,800 km long and became operational in 2011 with a minimum capacity of 640 Gbit/s.

He is also the single largest property owner in Nigeria and also owns an extensive property portfolio in Ghana, South Africa, France, U.K and the United States.

The Mike Adenuga Foundation

The Mike Adenuga Foundation is a proudly Pan African philanthropic foundation. The main mission of the organisation is to help Nigeria and other African countries, where the Mike Adenuga Group of Companies are commercially active on a permanent basis, to achieve social and economic independence. The Mike Adenuga Foundation aims to contribute to an improved future for Nigerians and other African citizens.

From the Nigerian Billionaires story, we can learn a few lessons:

1. Think and Dream big and be determined to achieve them.

2. The harder you work, the greater the chances of success you get

3. When you start a business, do not make money your overall aim. “If I can be seen as adding value to Nigerians, it is more fulfilling,” 

4. Making money should not be one’s topmost priority but affecting lives positively.

Source: MYOB


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