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Home Uncategorized How Tony Elumelu Became a Billionaire
Uncategorized - March 11, 2022

How Tony Elumelu Became a Billionaire

Elumelu’s story is an inspiring tale, one that teaches that academic qualifications are no barrier to greatness.

United Bank for Africa (UBA), a leading pan-African bank led by billionaire businessman Tony Elumelu as Chairman, recently announced its audited results for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, revealing impressive performance across key metrics.

Despite a challenging business environment and a slow economic recovery in the various countries where it operates, the report showed that its gross earnings rose significantly to N660.2 billion, representing an increase of seven percent, compared to the N616.8 billion recorded at the end of the 2020 financial year.

This can be traced to the excellent leadership record the company has had over the years under Tony Elumelu in various capacities, first as its CEO and now as its Chairman. The bank, as well as numerous other companies in his portfolio, continues to churn out excellent year-on-year results, a testament to his exceptional leadership ability.

Tony Elumelu’s story is an inspiring tale; one that teaches that academic qualifications may not, and should not be, a limiting factor to one’s greatness.

Tony Elumelu’s meteoric rise 

As a young graduate from Bendel State University with a Second Class Lower (2.2) result, Tony Elumelu believed in his capacity to deliver, so much so that he went ahead and applied for a position in the then All States Trust Bank, which required only 2.1-degree holders.

With a belief in his ability to deliver beyond what his certificate carried, Elemuele, in one of his posts, noted that part of his cover letter back then had read, “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, 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 went ahead to clinch the job as an entry-level analyst with the bank. And true to his words, he gave it his best. So much so that within a short while, he was made a branch manager at just 27 years old.

Writing about his meteoric rise, he said, “I was hard-working, 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. 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 narrated.

Tony Elumelu’s rise to the billionaire club

Tony Elumelu’s rise to billionaire status has been nothing short of phenomenal. According to Forbes, Tony Elumelu as of 2015, was number 31 on Africa’s list of richest men with $700 million.

His breakthrough came with the acquisition of Crystal Bank Limited, a distressed bank at the brink of bankruptcy in 2007, at the age of 34, along with a group of investors. He went on to turn around the fortunes of the bank, which was re-christened Standard Trust Bank, as its CEO. 

It is interesting to note that the concept of debt for equity swap was first introduced into the Nigerian banking industry during his time at the helm of affairs of Crystal Bank. According to Elumelu, this was the concept that helped turn the fortunes of the bank around, as some large depositors were asked to show faith and confidence in the team by taking an interest in the new entity in lieu of their deposits.

In 2005, he led the merger with the United Bank of Africa, then the third-largest bank in Nigeria at the time. Interestingly, he chose to maintain the name UBA, a move that came as a surprise to many.

As CEO of the newly merged bank, Elumelu stirred the company in the space of a few years to become a Pan-African bank with a presence in more than 20 countries, plus the U.S. and U.K. By the time he left in 2010 due to a new CBN policy at the age of 47, UBA was a strong bank with $12 billion in assets, a $2 billion market capitalization, and over 10,000 employees.

At the moment, Elumelu owns a 6.39% stake in the bank, which puts him in good stead. From this, he gets a whopping $46.9 million (N18.4 billion).

Since departing UBA, Tony Elumelu has become a serial investor/entrepreneur. Through his companies, Heirs Holdings, Transcorp, and others, he and his family have interests in virtually every sector of the Nigerian economy.

According to the billionaire businessman, with Heirs Holdings, the aim is to see the private sector-based role in the economic development of the African continent driven by the Africapitalism philosophy.

“In 2010, when I left United Bank for Africa (UBA), I founded Heirs Holdings, which is a family investment company that invests in key sectors of the African economy. We basically are driven by our philosophy of Africapitalism. We want to see the private sector-based role in the economic development of our continent, and that is why we founded Heirs Holdings. When we started, the ambition was to help to improve lives and transform the continent, and we thought that the way to do this is by investing in critical sectors of the economy, such as power, “he said.

Heirs Holdings owns a 45 percent stake in OML 17, previously held by Shell, Total, and ENI. The OML 17 is located in the Port Harcourt region and includes a set of 15 onshore wells (oil and gas), including six active wells and related oil infrastructure.


He owns a controlling share of 22.2% of Transcorp Nigeria Plc, a leading diversified conglomerate that has interests in hospitality, agriculture, oil production, and power generation. The company owns brands such as the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Transcorp Power, and Trans-Afam Power.

Transcorp, through its two power companies, has the highest generating capacity of 2,000 megawatts of electricity in the country.

His 22% share of Transcorp (5.7 billion shares held in a private capacity with the rest via Heirs Holdings) makes him the single largest individual shareholder worth N30.7bn as of 2013.

In health care, the company owns the Avon Medical business, managed by his wife, Dr. Awele Elumelu, and Avon HMO, a health insurance firm led by Simbo Ukiri.

Without a doubt, Tony Elumelu is a man who recognises opportunities and has used them to build a war chest of resources for himself and his family. He also continues to give back to society by way of empowerment through the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), which empowers young Africans with brilliant entrepreneurial ideas.

READ ALSO: 5 Business Lessons from Aig-Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe’s Takeover of Access Bank

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