Billionaire investor, Femi Otedola, has dismissed friendship with the Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu, saying he betrayed his trust after going into business with him in 2005.
Otedola said Elumelu took over his investment in UBA and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), went through the backdoor to acquire his shares in Transnational Corporation (Transcorp), as well as hijacked his investment idea to buy the Ughelli Power Plant.
The revelation was made on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in a statement addressing his recent powerplay with Elumelu as regards the control of Transcorp.
It was reported in April that Otedola bought about 6 percent of Transcorp shares to take control of Transcorp shares, but Elumelu responded by increasing his stake from 2 percent to 25.5 percent to take back control of the company.
Reports later circulated in late April that Otedola had agreed to sell his stake to Elumelu after the intervention of mutual friends.
In the statement released on Tuesday, Otedola explained the fallout of his friendship with Elumelu and why he moved to buy Transcorp shares.
“In 2005, while Tony was the Managing Director of Standard Trust Bank he approached me to get funds to acquire UBA. I enthusiastically gave him $20 million, which was N2 billion at that time to buy the necessary shares in UBA for the acquisition. After a short period of time, the share price moved up and I decided it was a good moment to sell and get out of the bank. However, Tony appealed to me to hold on to the shares as he was convinced that there were future prospects – so I kept the shares.
“I became Chairman of Transcorp Hotel in 2007 with a shareholding of 5% and unknowingly Tony gradually started buying shares quietly.
“By the following year in 2008, I went bankrupt in Nigeria. Tony proceeded to take my shares in UBA to service the interest on my loans and he also took over my shares in Africa Finance Corporation, where I was the largest shareholder.
“Shortly after, Albert Okumagba informed me that an American firm wanted to acquire my shares in Transcorp, which I then agreed to sell. However, this supposed American firm turned out to be Tony Elumelu. The revelation of this prompted me to resign as Chairman of the hotel.
“Years later in 2012 Tony said he wanted to see me so we met in my office where I had previously had a meeting with foreign investors who had not yet departed the premises. Curious to know, he asked what sort of meeting I had had and I disclosed that I wanted to go into the power business, specifically Ughelli Power Plant. Tony quietly went ahead to bid for Ughelli and he outbid me by offering to buy the plant for $300 million.
And as some would say: the rest is history.
“Fast forward to the present…
“I offered to buy Transcorp Plc for N250 billion, but unfortunately, my offer was rejected. My goal was to maximize the company’s potential as a Nigerian conglomerate with a market cap of at least N2 trillion instead of the current N40 billion, but it seems some shareholders have a different vision.
“As a businessman, I believe in healthy competition and market dynamics. Two captains cannot man a ship, and I respect the majority shareholder’s decision to buy me out. This is the nature of the game.
“But let me be clear: my offer was made with the best intentions for Transcorp Plc and its shareholders. I saw an opportunity to unlock the company’s full potential and create value for everyone involved.
“It’s important for investors to understand that free entry and free exit are crucial to healthy markets. The scramble for shares after my acquisition is a testament to the value that Transcorp Plc can offer, and I hope the company continues to thrive under new leadership.
“My message to Transcorp Plc and its shareholders is this: I remain committed to the growth and success of Nigerian businesses, and I will always be looking for ways to create value for all stakeholders. Stakeholders are unfortunately always shortchanged by getting stipends while the owners and managers of the business live a jet-set lifestyle, which is detrimental to the stakeholders. Thank you for the opportunity to engage in this exciting chapter of Transcorp’s history.”
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