Topmost Diaspora Nigerian business icons – Adebayo Ogunlesi

Adebayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian-born lawyer and investment banker, is chairman/managing partner, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) – the private equity firm that owns key airports in London. 

The firm bought London City Airport in 2006 and in 2009, it acquired majority interest in London Gatwick Airport in a deal valued at £1.455 billion. GIP bought Edinburgh Airport in 2012 and the list of acquisitions grew yet in 2018 when it bought Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori – an Italian high-speed train operating company.

GIP is a leading global independent infrastructure fund manager that Ogunlesi started in 2006 as a joint venture with initial investors including top names as private banking giant – Credit Suisse and world energy leader – General Electric. 

The company is set on a mission of creating value for investors by driving businesses that deliver high quality services to customers and communities. It targets infrastructure businesses and assets in energy, transportation, digital, water and waste sectors where its expertise and relationships place it at a competitive advantage.

GIP capitalizes on in-depth knowledge of target industries to build capabilities to originate proprietary transactions, conduct deep and extensive due diligence, structure and close investment deals, employ best practice operating management, manage stakeholder relationships effectively and act promptly on exit opportunities.

Ogunlesi has grown GIP to become one of the world’s largest infrastructure investing firms with $84 billion in assets under management on behalf of its global investor base. The companies in its equity portfolios have combined annual revenues in excess of $68 billion and a workforce in the region of 100,000.

The cornerstone of the company’s business is its infrastructure equity funds that represent more than 71 percent of the assets under management. It focuses on energy, transport, digital, and water/waste infrastructure sectors; proprietary, proactive and selective deal origination; large-scale, complex transactions with limited competition; strategic joint ventures with leading industrial partners among others.

Its global equity funds target core-plus infrastructure investment opportunities predominantly in the OECD countries.

Ogunlesi trained at Oxford University in England from where he received a B.A. with first class honors in philosophy, politics and economics. In 1979, he received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, which he pursued within the same space of time. During his time at Harvard, he was on the Harvard Law Review.

From 1980 to 1981, Ogunlesi served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He was an attorney in the corporate practice group of the New York City law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he had been a summer associate while studying for his M.B.A.

He joined First Boston – an investment banking firm in 1983 as an advisor on a Nigerian gas project. There, he worked in the Project Finance Group, advising clients on transactions and financings. From 1997 to 2002, he headed the Global Energy Group of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) as renamed and was appointed Global Head of the bank’s investment banking division in 2002. In the same year, he served as a member of CSFB’s executive board and management committee and became executive vice chairman and chief client officer of the bank from 2004 to 2006.

Ogunlesi is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association. While working at Credit Suisse First Boston, he was a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School of Management, where he taught a course on transnational investment projects in emerging countries.

In October 2012, he was appointed to the board of Goldman Sachs and was named lead director in 2014. In 2016, he was one of the business leaders appointed to be part of Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

GIP has a number of specialized equity platforms with specialised focus on economies and markets. These include GIP Australia, which was formed to provide larger scale local and global investors with access to high quality, larger scale, Australian infrastructure investment opportunities via transactions executed and managed by GIP.  

GIP Emerging Markets team brings in its deep insight in emerging markets fundamentals, extensive investment expertise and market leading local experience and networks. It seeks to provide investors with a differentiated investment opportunity to access the emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. The team employs a strategy consistent with GIP’s global equity funds, focused primarily on energy, transport, digital, water/waste and other industries where the team has proven capabilities.

GIP ATLAS is another specialised equity platform, which invests exclusively in listed infrastructures. Its approach to the sector matches that of the private infrastructure investor with a focus on the returns associated with the long-term cash flows of the assets of listed infrastructure companies.

The team takes close account of the duration of contracted revenue, the regulatory environment, the impact of inflation and interest rates and evaluates the specific risks associated with revenue streams of each listed company, with particular attention to climate related risks.

There is also GIP Credit formed in 2015 to make non-equity investments with the mandate to transact across multiple entry points in the capital structure. The team targets energy, transport, digital, water/waste and other industries or projects with infrastructure-like characteristics. It is positioned to leverage the broader GIP platform, creating a symbiotic relationship to source and structure bilaterally originated credit opportunities where the company can act as the lead or anchor credit investor.