Felix Ohiwerei – Nigeria’s Top Ten Boardroom Leaders

Felix Ohiwerei is a man so versatile in leading and creating business that he could as well be called Mr. Boardroom. He has a larger than life image in corporate Nigeria, reflecting his exceptional ability to see ahead of the competition and initiate steps that place his organization in a strong position to rule the industry. This he has accomplished in Nigeria Breweries a company that has created some of the biggest value for shareholders in Nigeria.

Nigerian Breweries is the leading organization among the companies where Ohiwerei has made his biggest impact in corporate leadership. From the position of salesman, he rose to top management of the company and directed its operations as both executives and non-executive chairman. He led the company through strategic investment and acquisition that enables it to seize market share from competitors and sustain growth in a static consumer market.

When it comes to how to grow the business ahead of a slowly moving industry, Ohiwerei seems to be the man that has answers. The ability to achieve growth in all segments of an admittedly difficult market and ultimately out-perform it is what has distinguished this distinguished business builder in the boardroom.

Ohiwerei set an enviable mark of continually placing Nigerian Breweries in the best position to compete to the extent that if there are 10 sales in the breweries products marketplace, seven of them will come from Nigerian Breweries. The strength lies in continually feeding the market with brand leading products and aggressively extended product reach.

To his top line strategy to grow volume is also embedded a bottom defense of profit. New investment in capacity building is supported with continuous human capital structure. This creates economy of scale advantage that has made Nigerian Breweries the most profitable company in the breweries business for many years.

 Definitely shareholders everywhere would want to have him as close as possible in the board leadership in order to achieve the superior value creation that he delivers seemingly effortlessly. This explains how this highly regarded corporate chieftain has spread his business building expertise to the length and breadth of the Nigerian economy.

 He was called over to Unilever Nigeria to take over the leadership of the conglomerate as chairman of board of director as in 1998. He is present in the healthcare sector as chairman of Fidson Healthcare plc.  

He has led and is still leading a number of companies in various sectors of the economy, including Bankers Warehouse Plc, e-Tranzact International Plc, Asset & Resource Management Company Limited, World Dove Media, Ashford & McGuire, NIPC, Air Nigeria Development Limited, Coates Brothers(West Africa) Limited, Jubilee Life Mortgage Bank Ltd, among others he Is also in the Board of Unity Bank.

Ohiwerei, who hails from Edo state studied geography at the University of Ibadan and joined Nigerian Breweries soon after graduation as a field salesman. For a good part of his stay in the company, his job was to sell the company’s products in respect of which he excelled, rising to the position of the marketing director in 15years.

He was appointed deputy chairman/managing directors of director in 1989 and chairman/chief executive officer of the company in 1997. He retired from the service of Nigerian Breweries in June 1999 and was appointed non-executive chairman of the company in the same year and retired from the board in 2007.

 When Ohiwerei took over the leadership of Nigerian breweries was a period when the challenge of raw materials sourcing in the industrial sector reached a critical stage. Government banned the importation of wheat and barley as a strategy to reduce demand pressure on naira exchange rate and to encourage local wheat cultivation.

Ohiwerei rose to the challenge and produced a beer based on local raw materials. This is in pursuit of the objective of always keeping the company in the best position to compete. The same philosophy guided the development of new products as market conditions and consumer preferences changed with time. With increasing product portfolio, he succeeded in retaining and extending the company’s market share.

 In the market share building bid, Ohiwerei took strategic steps to build the necessary capacity to dominate the eastern market. This involved the acquisition of diamond Breweries in Enugu to strengthen its Enugu factory and the construction of its largest brewing plant at Enugu. He also acquired the Schweppes franchise to capture a share of the soft drink market. These strategic steps are the great benefits of eagle-eyed boardroom giant that continually has his eyes open and his hand to take advantage of growth opportunities well ahead of competition.