Forbes magazine one time described Adewale Tinubu as “The King of African Oil”, so his name should ring a bell. Even if you do not know him, chances are that you have purchased fuel from one of his outlets – OANDO. He is our focus this week on Meet The Founder.
Adewale Jubril Tinubu was born on 26 June 1967, in Lagos, Nigeria, and got his early education in the same location. After passing his West African Senior Certificate examination in 1983, he decided to toe his father’s footprints and pursue a course in law. Adewale went to the United Kingdom at the tender age of 16 years to read law at the University of Liverpool, England.
After completing his law degree, he proceeded to the London School of Economics for a Master’s degree in Law in 1989. He came back to Nigeria at the age of 22, attended the Nigerian Law School, and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1990.
Early entrepreneurial moves
As a young student in London, Adewale Tinubu decided that he could not keep waiting for allowances and the likes. He decided to do something to make some cash for himself on the side. His first move was to travel to Europe and purchase a luxury German car which he drove back to London to resell at a higher price.
He made the first trip successfully and it became his routine. Tinubu would later recount that he was averaging about $5,000 in profits on each sale – no small feat for a young 21-year-old.
Leaving the bar to go hustle in the garage
Tinubu started working in his father’s law firm, K. O. Tinubu, and Co, as a lawyer specializing in corporate and petroleum law. It was a fulfillment of dreams on one part, a dream he had nursed for years, but he soon got bored. He wanted something more engaging that would have him brokering and sealing mouth-watering deals. The young 23-year-old man was already tired of staying in his father’s shadows.
In 1992, when Tinubu clocked 25 years old, he resigned and started a company working out of his father’s garage since he did not even have enough money to rent an office space. He installed a telephone which he borrowed from the family house, and also borrowed some office supplies from his father. Finally, he could do things his own way, and he did just that. He secured and executed corporate assignments for some companies, saving up enough to rent his own office and get his own office supplies.
How Oando came about
Tinubu’s friend, Jite Okoloko met him in 1994 and requested that he help him source a vessel to transport fuel. Okoloko had been awarded a contract by Unipetrol, a government-owned oil company to transport diesel from the Port Harcourt refinery in Niger Delta to fill up a few fishing trawlers in Lagos and could not lay hands on a vessel to execute the deal.
Tinubu contacted another friend, Omamofe Boyo a lawyer at FRA Williams Chambers, who happened to have an old client who had just what they were looking for. An oil service firm that Boyo had represented owned a weather-beaten 1945 World War II tanker called The Carolina. The men inspected the vessel and chartered it to execute the deal. This marked the informal beginning of the oil and gas business that would metamorphose into Ocean and Oil.
With time Tinubu registered the oil trading company officially – naming it Ocean and Oil, and purchased the vessel. Even without any marketing plan or budget, he focused on delivering on time and satisfying clients, and the positive reviews and referrals kept rolling in. Tinubu partnered with Okoloko, Boyo, and Osaze Osifo in Ocean and Oil, and further increased the fleet to seven vessels. Within 5 years, he had established himself as a market leader in the sector.
In 2000, the Nigerian government decided to sell off its 40% equity in Unipetrol (10% to the investing public and 30% to a private investor). Tinubu lead Ocean and Oil to bid for the 30% stake, the largest ever acquisition of a quoted Nigerian company (given that Unipetrol PLC had purchased Agip Nigeria PLC).
The group was rebranded to Oando PLC, thus retaining its former character – Ocean and Oil (O and O). Oando Group has grown consistently over the years and now has several successful subsidiary brands including Axxela Limited in the midstream (formerly known as Oando Gas and Power) and OVH Energy in the downstream (formerly known as Oando Marketing Limited).
In 2019, Oando concluded its phased divestment from Axxela to a vehicle owned by Helios Investment Partners LLP (“Helios”), a premier Africa-focused private investment firm, for a total of $160 million. In 2019, Oando successfully divested Oando Marketing Limited to the Vitol Group and Helios Investment Partner, resulting in the formation of OVH Energy for $461m.
The company is the first Nigerian company to dual-list on both the Nigerian and Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and the listing happened in 2005.
Adewale Tinubu is a recipient of several awards and recognitions, both locally and globally.
- In January 2007, Tinubu was named Young global leader by the World Economic Forum Geneva, in recognition of his achievements as one of the leading executives under 41.
- In 2011, he received the “African Business Leader of the Year 2011” award from Africa Investor.
- In June 2015, he was named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ West Africa by Ernst & Young on the basis of his contributions to the development of the African Oil and Gas industry.
- ASKMEN listed him as one of the Top Ten CEOs in the world
The ingenious Adewale Tinubu continues to smash new challenges year after year, and he still sits as CEO of OANDO Plc.