Teni Adesanya – The making of the MAN OF THE YEAR 2021

It is no mean achievement to be selected as Man of the Year in a country of more than 200 million people, on whatever field of endeavor the searchlight is beamed; with whatever parameters are used. Whatever the criteria may be, there are bound to be dozens, or hundreds, if not thousands of people qualified for the honour. But when the lot falls on just one person out of the many that are considered, then there must be something extraordinary about such a person.

There is something truly extraordinary about Teni Adesanya, Founder and Executive Chairman of Oxford Holdings Limited, who has been named the Top10 Magazines’ Man of the Year 2021. There is, indeed, something about him that made him stand out on a list of 100 potential awardees after a rigorous selection exercise that went through a long process.

In selecting him for the coveted title, the board of editors of Top 10 was struck by his business acumen, wizardry and ingenuity in building what has become the Oxford brand to become Nigeria’s fastest growing conglomerate which, like the Octopus, has its tentacles in many sectors of the Nigerian economy – the reason it is able to play on the global stage.

Teni Adesanya

Adesanya has not only built a world-class conglomerate with over 200 subsidiaries spread across areas such as real estate, agriculture, information communication technology, management, construction, engineering, logistics, human capital development, asset management, banking, dredging, oil and gas, he has used his organization to impact positively on the Nigerian economy through building of critical infrastructure, service delivery in key sectors and creation of employment for hundreds of youths, thus helping to reduce unemployment in the country.

In Nigeria today, there are thousands of entrepreneurs who are making waves in different areas of endeavor, recording monumental successes, contributing to economic growth, creating thousands of jobs and adding value to the lives of many, but yet unsung. Adesanya is one of them.

It took a painstaking search by the Top10 magazine team of researchers to discover this silent achiever who would ordinarily wish to be left alone to mind his business, which is to contribute silently to the growth of the Nigerian economy and betterment of the society in his own little way. But, like the old saying goes, the goldfish as no hiding place.

Journey to the top

Before coming to limelight through real estate, Adesanya had operated in different sectors, like oil and gas marketing, stock broking and micro-finance. Though relatively successful in those areas, he had a yearning for something different; something bigger and more challenging. He didn’t need to think much or search far to identify real estate as a veritable area of investment and, most importantly, the area in which he would achieve self fulfilment. It helped his cause that he has friends who were quite successful in the sector, who served as inspiration to him.

Adesanya’s interest in real estate was ignited by friends who came together to set up firms that grew into big businesses. He found it quite curious that unlike other areas with which he was familiar, which are service-oriented, real estate is a physical business that is more tangible. He found out, most significantly, that in a country where there is a huge trust deficit, building trust among potential clients in real estate is not a walk in the park. A client would insist on knowing the contents of your belly to be sure of who you are, even when all the facts that prove your sincerity are there for him to see.

“Our growth is a direct result
of getting many things right.
There’s a local adage that
loosely translates to ‘one
pathway does not lead into
the market; there are several
other routes you can take’.

With a housing deficit of about 20 million in Nigeria, Adesanya discovered that real estate is not just a gold mine waiting to be tapped, but there is much work to be done. And this would involve helping the government to bring millions of Nigerians without homes into the affordable housing bracket. The snag, however, is the low purchasing power of the average Nigerian worker whose income leaves him with virtually nothing to put away as saving for possible housing purposes after spending on other basic needs like food, clothing, transportation, education and healthcare.

Adesanya had a vision. The clarity of his vision enabled him to see where he was going and where he wanted to lead Oxford. He also had a model for the business he was going into, having tested the waters before taking the plunge. He studied and understood the market, having a good idea of what customers wanted and knowing how to design strategies to satisfy those demands.

“The most important factor in our rapid growth is clarity of vision”, says Adesanya. “All other aspects of our business operations can be narrowed down to that single factor. The second thing is our model – which has now become a sort of trademark/signature idea. The way we expand and diversify our businesses is a bit ingenious.We tested it with our early businesses, it worked, and then we did it at scale”.

“Third, I’d say, is a clear understanding of the market we play in and its needs. We know what our target market wants and we step in to fill that gap. We’ve tested the waters, and then we dived in fully”.

What is known today as Oxford Holdings started as Oxford Froxxir Homes & Properties Limited, with a business model that included sales of lands and landed properties, covering a wide variety of properties offered for sale and development; estate development and management, renting and leasing, construction, investment in real estate products, and many others.

The company grew rapidly, perhaps beyond the imagination of its founder, thanks to its reputation for honesty and ability to deliver bespoke products and services to customers in record time. Adesanya says this has been made possible because of the company’s policy of honouring its promise to its customers. “It’s simple”, he says. “Keep your promise to your investors, and they will remain confident in your business since their investment or ROI is safe. We don’t default. Once your investment is due, you get your payments without issues. The assurances keep our investors happy and they keep coming back to do business with us”.

He says growth is inevitable when one is doing the right thing. “Our growth is a direct result of getting many things right. There’s a local adage that loosely translates to ‘one pathway does not lead into the market; there are several other routes you can take’. When you surmount a mountain, you realize there are many more to conquer. We are running with a vision and therefore, we keep pressing and pushing forward. To actualize our business vision, we need to cover as many grounds as possible.That is the core reason behind our relentless drive”.

The company is well known for products that are designed as saving schemes which feature flexible modes of payment that enable as many people as possible, irrespective of socio-economic background and status, to become house owners through subscription to its products and services. Today, it has over 24 estates, mostly in the South west, to its name, with plans for expansion into veritable markets like Abuja, Owerri, Port Harcourt and other cities with potential for good returns on investment.

Adesanya believes that real estate in Nigeria is like the sky which is big enough with space for millions of birds to fly at the same time, with none colliding with another. He believes that with over 200 million people and still growing, there can’t possibly be enough real estate for every Nigerian. In other words, there is enough room in the real estate sector for as many players as wish to operate to come in. As they say, the more, the merrier.

The organization has since grown into a conglomerate that operates as well in the agricultural sector, with Oxford Green Farms Limited flying its flag. The company was set up to accelerate agricultural production that would enable production of sufficient food for the African continent.

The coming into existence of the African Continental Free Trade Area is going to provide the boost Oxford Green Farms Limited needs to operate in a market without borders and the largest in the world, thereby helping to feed the continent’s burgeoning population.

Adesanya’s entry into real estate did not indicate a goodbye to the financial services sector where he had a stint. Having understood the sector as one through which businesses, especially small and medium scale enterprises could be impacted

positively, he set up Safeguard Microfinance Bank Limited to help facilitate the growth of small businesses. Today, many enterprises owe their existence and growth to the assistance they got from Safeguard Microfinance Bank.

Other companies under the umbrella of Oxford Holdings include Oxford Gold Integrated Limited, the outfit that acts as the Group’s strategic centre for innovative ideas that form the bedrock for the consistency of its high-quality products and services. There is Oxford Cal Limited, which provides services in calculations, computation and top-class financial services to high net-worth organizations and individuals. Oxford Octopus is an information communications technology company through which the Group has increased its operational efficiency using the most modern systems and processes.

The Group has ventured into oil and gas, an area it hopes to be a major player in exploration, production, refining, as well as production and marketing of petroleum products. In the area of assets management, the Group is focused on designing strategies for adding value to clients for the realization of benefits from tangible assets. In its logistics arm, the Oxford Group has simplified the process of distribution of products from suppliers to consumers.

Adesanya attributes the phenomenal growth Oxford Holdings has recorded in just about five years to its policy of always thinking ahead; thinking long term. “You better believe that we are running faster than you can imagine”, he says. “We are a long term thinking business; we are thinking about the next five to 10 years of operation and how we can keep sustaining our growth”.

Another policy that has aided the rapid growth of the Group, which is rooted in its business model, is decentralization. Each of the subsidiaries runs as an independent entity using the common template that was created at inception. “They run or grow at their own pace, largely stimulated by the profit-sharing agreement the company operates by”, Adesanya says. “They have their managing directors and their operations team, and only report to the head office at appropriate times. So, there is no ‘burn-out’ trying to run all of those subsidiaries”.

The different subsidiaries in the Group are each succeeding because Adesanya recruited the best hands he could find in the various sectors in which they operate to run those entities. And because he can rely on their competence and expertise, he gives them free hand to run the subsidiaries.

“To say I work with the best team would be understating the reality”, says Adesanya. “Everyone on the team is first a core believer in the vision that we are running with. And most importantly, they key to it and work hard at their duty posts. My people are passionately committed to this vision; it’s why we get the kind of results we see today”.

He welcomes and accommodates all shades of opinion an ideas, knowing full well that nobody has a monopoly of wisdom. “We operate an open-door policy; everyone and all ideas are welcome. This approach transcends the entire organization and it makes us like one big family. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so, we are very intentional about getting the best hands into strategic positions and very committed to personal developments. We fund training and courses for many of our people, to keep them atop their game. We need the best to remain in business”.

Like every other business with eye on expansion, Oxford Holdings is naturally attracted by the allure of the international market. Adesanya warns that as attractive and potentially profitable as it may be, there is need to enter the international market with caution; there is need to look before leaping.

“There’s always appeal or, should I say, temptation of tapping into the international market, but caution is very important”, he says. “Expansion opens a business to more opportunities beyond its immediate borders. When we see these opportunities, we first do our due diligence and detailed research before tapping in. We want to maximize our profit as an organization, but also want to protect our investment.

The Oxford Team

He said when the Group wanted to explore opportunities in Rwanda, it did anextensive, research to identify the sector with the best potential, and found that the financial sector was still a virgin land that was waiting to be exploited, “and we plugged into that”. The Group has operations in Benin Republic, as well, and is looking to explore more African markets.

Adesanya did not set up Oxford primarily for, profit making purposes. It is true that, like any other businessman and investor, he sought an opportunity to make profits; but he needed a platform to contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, as well. Apart from contributing to provision of housing to hundreds of Nigerians, he has created direct and indirect employment to more than 5, 000 Nigerians. The number will continue to rise as the Group expands its business through development of more housing estates in different parts of the country and engagement of more hands in the different subsidiaries, as the need arises.

“This is one thing I am extremely proud of”, Adesanya says. “Directly and indirectly, Oxford has more than 5,000 employees and associates who earn their income through several of our businesses, and we are still growing.

We believe that bringing more people into the employment fold is our way of contributing to addressing the larger economic challenges of the nation. I do not take this privilege for granted. As we keep expanding the frontiers of our businesses, we’d keep engaging more people – associates, direct employees, contractors, third-party middlemen, etc”.

Adesanya recognizes that while it is easy to get to the top, remaining at the position is a different ball game altogether.  In other words, it is not a tea party to remain at the top. He would therefore like to explore opportunities in other areas, as they may arise. No investor misses an opportunity to explore new frontiers, no matter how rich they may be. In fact, the typical investor stops dreaming of new investments the day he breaths his last.

Adesanya says the Group’s customers and investors are central to its short, and long- term plans. That is to say, whatever the Group does as it continues to progress would depend on these two categories of people. “First, to give them an experience rich enough to keep bringing them back to doing business with us”, he says. “Secondly, we would always strive to ensure that we stay afloat and stay profitable, to remain in business. So, we would keep exploring opportunities that align with our core business goals and secure the investments and interests of our investors. We would look at other thriving sectors to go into; we would keep anticipating future opportunities by studying current events and position our businesses to maximize those opportunities”.

For Adesanya, award of the Top10 Man of the Year is a call to more service, and something he does not take for granted. “Like I say for many of the awards I get, it’s a call to do more of what we are doing”, he says. “I’m humbled by the recognition, but I always see it as a call to step up our game and drive impact at scale. Well done to the Top Ten Magazine’s team for identifying and celebrating individuals who are making meaningful contributions to our society in one way or the other”.

The state of the Nigerian economy is something that should be of concern to every citizen. But Adesanya believes any attempt to find solutions to the economic situation without first understanding the reality of our situation would be an exercise in futility. “Then we need to look inwards to see what we have internally that we can leverage to grow the economy and expand opportunities for everyday Nigerians”, he says. “We also need to bring more economic experts onboard who have sound knowledge of managing the intricacies and complexities of economies like ours. Above all, we need to feel the pulse of the ‘Streets’. Let’s know what Nigerians truly want and be willing to offer succor by driving policies that speak to the needs of the most vulnerable citizens”.

The man, Teni Adesanya

Adesanya holds a string of educational and professional qualifications that make him a round peg in a round hole, easily fitting any role he finds himself playing in any field of endeavor. A holder of a BSc degree in Microbiology from the Lagos State University, he holds another BSc in Estate Management from the University of Ibadan and a DSC in Property Management and Estate Development from the European American University in the Dominican Republic.

He has attended the Owners’ Management Programme, Advanced Management Programme and the Agribusiness Management Programme of the Lagos Business School. He holds a PhD in Corporate Leadership and Management from the Alliance International University, as well as two diplomas in Sustainable Business Strategy and Negotiation Mastery, respectively, from the Harvard Business School, Massachusetts, the United States.

A professional of no mean repute, Adesanya is a business thought leader with close to two decades of hands-on experience that cuts across different sectors that include finance and investment management, banking, hospitality, insurance, oil and gas, project management and real estate. He possesses professional skills in real estate portfolio management, management consulting, finance and investment portfolio advisory, top-level marketing and sales consultancy; customer relationship management, start-up growth advisory and asset management.

Adesanya’s career trajectory involves executive marketer and regional manager, Aim and Assets management Limited, 2007 to 2010; fund advisory manager, UBA Metropolitan Life Assurance Limited, 2011; managing director, Pacific Asset Limited (later known as Maxtra Plc), 2011 to 2013 and managing director, Peakaflex Investment Limited, 2013 to 2016. Others are executive director (finance division), Richlife Commercial and Logistics Limited, February to June, 2016; chief executive officer, Oxford International Group, 2016 to 2020 and group chairman, Oxford Holdings, June, 2020 till date.

His biggest career achievement is building Oxford Holdings from one estate company into an octopus with many subsidiaries engaging over 5,000 entrepreneurs and associates; providing strategic leadership to the Group, which has seen the organization maintaining a continuous growth trajectory with a capital base of over N15 billion. He is credited with developing and managing a large-scale loan scheme for SMEs, with successful disbursements and loan recoveries, and a low rate of bad loans at Pacific Assets.

Adesanya was appointed as an independent director of organizations outside Oxford Holdings, including Finvest Plc, EAIN Capitals Limited, EAIN BDC Limited and EAIN Distribution Limited.

A professional whose expertise is sought after by many, Adesanay sits on the boards of several organizations. He is an independent director, Finvest Corp Plc; director, Eain Capital Limited; director, EAIN BDC Limited; director. ImageQ Oxford and director, Craighton Schools. Others are director, Oxford Dredging; director, GTBet Limited; director, Safegate Microfinance Bank and chairman, Oxford Holdings Limited.

His professional memberships include Member, Nigerian Institute of Insurance Agents; Fellow, Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC); Fellow, Chartered Institute of Management Consultants; Fellow, Institute of Credit Administrators and Fellow, Association of Corporate Governance Professionals of Nigeria. Others are Fellow, Professional Managers and Administrators; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Customer Relationship Management and Fellow, Chartered Institute of Public Resources Management and Politics, Ghana.

Adesanya has received several professional certifications that include Specialist in Leadership and Management Certificate (CIMS) UK Redgs; Construction Management (onilne), University of Cape Town; Real Estate Economics and Finance (certificate in view), London School of Economics and Political Science and Oxford Entrepreneurship: Venture Finance Programme, Said Business School.

Award and recognitions

Adesanya has many awards and recognitions to his name, which all speak to his educational and professional accomplishments. They include Africa Business Excellence Award 2021, by African Leadership Magazine, UK; African Patriotic Leader, Nelson Mandela Leadership Award; Most Innovative CEO of the Year, Business-day Newspaper; Distinguished Merit Award, Association of Business Managers and Administrators of Nigeria and Recommendations from US Georgia State Assembly in Recognition of Service to Humanity 2021.

Others are Rainbow Man of the Year 2019, Rainbow Award of Excellence; Outstanding Leadership Award 2019, by the National Association of Polytechnic Students and Extra-Ordinary Philanthropist Award 2019, by the National Association of Oduduwa Students.

The Philanthropist

Adesanya is a philanthropist who as touched the lives of many people in many ways. He has used his God-given success to impact the lives of others. He is the Founder and President of Teni Africa Foundation, a non-profit organization that is committed to the empowerment of young and aspiring entrepreneurs through grants and other resources that enable them to grow their businesses.

The foundation has supported over 50 SMEs in the past one year with grants and business loans worth over five million naira. The foundation has also pledged to pay bursaries and scholarships to over 500 students of Ogun State origin for the next five years.

During the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, Teni Africa Foundation gave palliatives in form of food items and cash to over 1,000 households in different communities.

The Dream Team Behind Adesanya’s Success Story at Oxford

“To say I work with the best team would be understating the reality. Everyone on the team is first acore believer in the vision that we are running with. And most importantly, the key to it and work hard at their duty posts. My people are passionately committed to this vision; it’s why we get the kind of results we see today”. This is how Dr. Adesanya describes his team in a recent interview with The Top10 Magazine.

Adesanya, the driver of the Oxford vision, heads a team of highly qualified and dedicated professionals who help to drive the Oxford brand that has become the cynosure of all eyes within and outside. While he sits at the apex of the pyramid as executive chairman of Oxford Holdings, he is ably supported by a competent team who help him to drive the Oxford vision its present height. The following are the top executive management members of the team:

Dr. Precious Ogun Michael: Group Chief Executive, Oxford Holdings

DR Precious Ogun Michael: Group Chief Executive, Oxford Holdings

Dr. Precious Ogun Michael is the Group Chief executive Officer of Oxford Holdings, a fast-growing conglomerate with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria.

A seasoned business leader and entrepreneur, she has a hands-on experience across different sectors, including finance and investment management, energy, project management and real estate management. She is also versed in corporate management, business strategy, expansion and growth.

Michael, who joined Oxford in 2018 after a successful career in the legal profession, is skilled in real estate portfolio management, finance and investment portfolio advisory, customer relations management and start-up advisory, among many others. She rose rapidly through the ranks to her current position, by virtue of hard work, dedication, diligence and professionalism.

Her most outstanding career achievement is growing the capital base of Oxford Holdings from N1billion to N15 billion within six months through innovative market-driven approach, and also overseeing the expansion of the Group’s presence from two to 12 states and outside the country, to Benin Republic and Rwanda.

She has interests in entrepreneurship and business development, real estate management, human capacity development, public speaking, as well as gender equity and advocacy.

Michael’s career trajectory has seen her rising from the position of Junior Counsel in the law firm of Adekunle Ojo Chambers from 2015, through Junior Legal Counsel in AO Williams Chambers in 2018 to Head, Human Resources and Legal Officer, Oxford Commercial Services International between 2018 and 2019; Group Managing Director, Oxford Partners Group, 2019 and 2020, to Group Chief Executive Officer, Oxford Holdings, from June, 2020 till date.

She holds a Bachelor of Law from the Nigerian Law School (2016); Honorary Doctorate in Leadership and Management from Alliance International University, Dutch Caribbean (2021); Management Essentials, Harvard Business School, U.S.A (2021); Executive Programme and Senior Management Programme, Lagos Business School (2021) and MBA, University of Ibadan (in view)

Michael, who sits on the boards of over 10 companies that include Safegate Microfinance Bank, Oxford Asset Management and others, is a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration and the Institute of Management Consultants.

Obasegun Adegbola: Managing Director, Oxford Dredging

Obasegun Adegbola, a holder of a BSc degree in Economics from Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State, is the managing director of Oxford Dredging, a subsidiary of the Oxford Group. He is a versatile entrepreneur with good business skills.

Goodluck Olatunde Precious: Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, OIG

Goodluck Olatunde Precious

Olatunde Precious is known for his high level of creativity, leadership, management and development skills, determination and unrelenting drive for success. A graduate of Management and Business Administration from the University of Ibadan and an alumnus of the Senior Management Programme of the Lagos Business School, he worked variously as Credit Manager at Maxtra Limited; Marketing Officer, Wempco Friesland and Marketing/Credit Manager, Peakaflex Investment Limited before joining Oxford.

Precious has been Assistant Investment Manager, Oxford Commercial Services (2016); Regional Business Manager for Ibadan and Ojodu Berger: Oxford Group Subsidiary Supervisor overseeing 32 groups; Executive Director, Customer Relations (2020); Executive Director, Marketing (2021) before his current position as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, OIG.

Olubunmi Dayo-Ayeni: Managing Director, non-financial services

Olubunmi Dayo-Ayeni is the managing director in charge of non-financial services. A graduate of Engineering from the University of Lagos and a holder of an MBA from the Chicago Institute of Business, she brought into Oxford Holdings over 15 years of cognate experience cutting across oil and gas, from importation to distribution and upstream services.

Trained at the Harvard Business School, Dayo-Ayeni worked with Cainergy International Limited, and has established herself as a strategic industry expert with entrepreneurial spirit. She leads the organization’s growth and market differentiation.

Leke Balogun: Executive Director, Oxford Dredging

Leke Balogun, executive director of Oxford Dredging, received his academic training at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, and has undergone professional training as a chartered marketer (NIMARK), with certificates in Sustainable Strategy and Disruptive Strategy from the Harvard Business School, U.S.A.

Leke Balogun

He started his career at Cadbury Nigeria where he honed his professional skills. He joined Oxford Group International in 2017 as an associate, rising through diligence and hard work to his current position at which he has distinguished himself as a thorough-bred professional, making close to one billion naira sales in investment and land.

Halima Teni-Adesanya: Executive Director, Oxford Asset Management Limited

Halima Teni-Adesanya, a seasoned Nigerian business woman, financial advisor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is the Executive Director, Oxford Asset Management Limited.

Halima Teni-Adesanya

She has close to a decade of professional experience in handling administrative duties, improving customer service and product experience, attending and resolving customers’ complaints timely, driving operational excellence, effectively managing team and ensuring improved team performance level, maintaining cordial business relationship while at Access Bank PLC, before joining Oxford in August, 2021.

She believes in giving back to the society. Prior to her current appointment, she founded Zaam Foundation, a non-governmental organization involved in bringing awareness to the devastating effects of Ameloblastoma disease and bringing succour to patients suffering from it by providing physical, psychological, educational, health and nutritional support.

Halima has professional skills in various areas that include client relationship management, driving service delivery and excellence, performance management,

operational effectiveness and relationship building. Others are planning and organizational skills, effective communication skills, report writing and documentation. 

Dr. Kunle Adesanya: Executive Director, Hr/Administration Oxford Holdings

Dr. Kunle Adesanya

Dr. Kunle Adesanya, the Executive Director, Human Resources and Administration is one of the pillars of the Oxford Holdings who has been with the company since 2019. He is an experienced investment consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the investment management industry. He is skilled in research, property management, and real estate investments.

Leshie Ademola: Executive Director, Research Development

Leshie Ademola

Mr. Leshie Ademola, is the Executive Director, Research Development of the Oxford Holdings, a key executive management member of the organization that works closely with Dr. Adesanya for the growth of the organization.