Home » Adebayo Ogunlesi: Nigerian billionaire whose firm owns London’s Gatwick Airport

Adebayo Ogunlesi: Nigerian billionaire whose firm owns London’s Gatwick Airport

by Omokolade Ajayi
Adebayo Ogunlesi

Adebayo Ogunlesi, an exceptional Nigerian lawyer and billionaire investment banker, has carved a remarkable path in the world of finance and infrastructure. His story is a testament to the relentless determination and visionary leadership at the helm of leading corporations.

Born to Theophilus O. Ogunlesi, the first Nigerian medicine professor at the University of Ibadan, Ogunlesi’s journey from the streets of Nigeria to the skyscrapers of New York is nothing short of extraordinary.

Not just a business mogul, Ogunlesi is a scholar with an impressive educational background. He holds a BA in politics, philosophy, and economics from Oxford University, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

He currently serves as the Lead Director of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and sits on the boards of several prominent companies, including Callaway Golf Company, Kosmos Energy Holdings, Terminal Investment Limited, and Freeport LNG.

The genesis of Global Infrastructure Partners

In May 2006, he co-founded Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York-based private equity firm, with the backing of Credit Suisse and General Electric, securing a remarkable $5.64 billion in committed capital. This marked the beginning of a journey that would reshape the landscape of infrastructure investment.

With a unique blend of legal and financial expertise, Ogunlesi swiftly guided GIP towards its first groundbreaking investment. In October 2006, GIP and American International Group (AIG) entered a remarkable 50:50 joint venture, culminating in the acquisition of London City Airport, a move that left the financial world astounded. This was just the beginning of GIP’s extraordinary journey.

By 2009, GIP made headlines again with the acquisition of Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second-largest by passenger traffic, for £1.5 billion ($1.83 billion). Ogunlesi was undeniably making waves, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to transforming the global infrastructure landscape. Not content with just one jewel in his crown, he led the acquisition of Edinburgh Airport in 2012 for £807 million ($982.1 million).

Under Ogunlesi’s leadership, GIP saw unprecedented growth. GIP I, the firm’s first fund, raised $5.64 billion, fully invested by 2012. GIP II raised a staggering $8.25 billion in September 2012, earning the title of the world’s largest independent infrastructure fund. This continued with GIP III in January 2017, securing $15.8 billion, and GIP IV in December 2019, reaching $22 billion.

Adebayo Ogunlesi’s illustrious career before co-founding GIP

Before co-founding GIP, Ogunlesi spent 23 illustrious years at Credit Suisse, eventually rising to the position of executive vice chairman and chief client officer of the investment banking division. His vision for GIP redefined his legacy and marked a new chapter in his career. Moreover, his ability to recognize opportunities extended beyond the realm of finance.

Under his guidance, GIP diversified its portfolio, venturing into the transport sector, natural resources, and power generation. Investments included seaports, freight rail facilities, midstream natural resources, and power generation businesses, solidifying GIP’s position as a global infrastructure powerhouse.

Today, GIP’s infrastructure equity funds represent an astounding $60 billion of the firm’s assets under management. Ogunlesi’s journey from a young Nigerian scholar to a global financial titan is a testament to the remarkable achievements that relentless determination and visionary leadership can bring.

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