Aiyesimoju and UACN: Why an old conglomerate picked a young boss

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Last week, Nigeria’s oldest corporate organization, the United African Company of Nigeria (UACN) appointed 37-year old Folasope Babasola Aiyesimoju as its new Group Managing Director(GMD). With his assumption of office on April 1, Aiyesimoju is probably the youngest MD of a tier 1 company in the country.

An old company with a rich history

Today, UAC is a conglomerate with business interests spread across several subsidiaries playing in different sectors. But the company’s roots go a long way back in time, much farther than Nigeria’s existence as a nation. UAC’s precursor was the Royal Niger Company founded by the British in 1750 to administer the territory that would later become Nigeria. The name of the company changed to The Niger Company Limited in 1990 when the charter established by the government for it was revoked.

In 1919, The Niger Company Limited was bought by Lever Brothers Limited. That same year, The Miller Brothers Limited and the African Association United to form the African & Eastern Trade Corporation.

On March 3, 1929, The United Africa Company (UAC) was formed by the joint agreements of The African & Eastern Trade Corporation and the Niger Company (Owned by Lever Brothers Limited)

The name was changed to UAC of Nigeria Limited on 1st March, 1973.

This was followed by a public listing in 1974, in which 40 per cent of the company’s shares were bought by Nigerians. An additional 20 percent shares were offered in 1977 and the company became UAC plc

The Nigerian government bought Unilever’s 40 percent stake in UAC in 1994, making it completely Nigerian-owned. In Nigeria, many UAC brands now compete in the market with Lever brothers (Now Unilever)

Today, UAC has built a business empire that spans several industries. Many of its brands are household names in Nigeria. In the food and beverage industry, the company’s popular brands include Gala(sausage roll), Gossy(table water), Funtime(coconut chips), and Supreme(ice cream).

In the agriculture and pets’ sector, it has Vital feed (chicken feed), Binngo (Dog food) In the building sector, UAC has Dulux and Caplux Paints, and Sandtex paint finish. In the property sector, the company has UAC Property Development Company (UPDC).

Background on Folasope Aiyesimoju

Aiyesimoju is a Real Estate and Financial expert who has been heading UAC’s property subsidiary since August 2018.

He holds a B.Sc. (Hons) degree in Estate Management from the University of Lagos, where he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence in Real Estate Development and finance.

Today’s Echo gathers that Aiyesimoju spent the early part of his career with Ocean and Oil Holdings Limited, a principal investment firm in Nigeria led by Wale Tinubu. Ocean and Oil Holding is the major shareholder in Nigerian publicly traded oil giant; Oando.  Aiyesimoju has also worked with ARM Investment Managers, one of Nigeria’s leading investment advisory and wealth management firms.

He has also worked with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKK), a global investment firm that manages multiple alternative asset classes, including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate, and credit. KKK acquired several American companies in the 60s and 70s, including Stern Metals (1965), Incom (a division of Rockwood International, 1971), Cobblers Industries (1971), and Boren Clay (1973), as well as Thompson Wire and Eagle Motors.

He has dabbled into business as well, starting a highly successful investment firm; Themis Capital Management, which is focused on concentrating capital and talent on high-potential opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Inside sources have described Aiyesimoju as brilliant, innovative and self-effacing. He was appointed Managing Director of UAC’s property development company in 2018 after the Real Estate outfit recorded a N2.9bn Loss. Aiyesimoju’s success at turning around the fortunes of the subsidiary must have also contributed the decision of the board to make him head the entire conglomerate in less than a year

Why Aiyesimoju was chosen

Commenting on the appointment the Chairman of the board of UAC of Nigeria Plc, Mr Dan Agbor, said that the appointment of Mr Aiyesimoju as GMD/CEO signifies the company’s ambitions, and the board’s determination to accelerate the process of change within the group.

However, there is good reason to believe he has been chosen because of his experience and knowledge of business acquisitions. In his extensive experience, Ayesimoju has worked with several investment companies that have acquired other companies. One of such companies is Ocean and Oil Holdings, which Wale Tinubu and Omamofe Boyo used to acquire Unipetrol in the 90s. There is also his experience at KKK, which has acquired several American companies over the years.

This ultimately gives us a hint about what UAC’s next move might be. As a conglomerate, UAC seems to be getting ready for an expansion drive, which may involve some acquisitions in the near future.

Inside sources have described Aiyesimoju as brilliant, innovative and self-effacing. He was appointed Managing Director of UAC’s property development company in 2018 after the Real Estate outfit recorded a N2.9bn Loss. Aiyesimoju’s efforts in turning around the fortunes of the subsidiary must have also contributed the decision of the board to make him head the entire conglomerate in less than a year.

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