Thursday, June 17, 2010

Black Gatwick Airport owner inspires community

he purchase of Gatwick airport by Nigerian entrepreneur and businessman Adebayo Ogunlesi has been heralded as a sign that black business leadership has entered a new era.
Rising up the ranks of international finance

‘It is tremendous that the head of the team which secured this deal was led by a Nigerian. We know that African men have the instinct for the big deals and we hope that we will see more of this.
It shows that along side the Tidjane Thiam at the Prudential we are finally seeing men from our communities rising up the ranks of international finance,' Henry Bonsu director and presenter on Colourful Radio told Black Mental Health UK.
Ogunlesi is the Chairman and Managing Partner, of the $5.64 billion joint venture, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) .  A company that invests in infrastructure assets worldwide with interest in power, transport, oil, gas, water and waste.
In 2009 Ogunlesi completed the £1.46bn deal to buy Gatwick Airport, with a further £55m linked to future passengers and buyer's capital structure.  Ogunlesi has said publicly that  GIP's aim of buying Gatwick is to upgrade and modernise, the airport and airlines, and he has  welcomed the ‘break up of the BAA airport' monopoly.
Make Gatwick a first class experience
olu_alake_-_100_bml_president.jpgIn an exclusive interview on Sky television with Jeff RandallAdebayo Ogunlesi, also known as Bayo, said he is going ‘to make Gatwick a truly first class experience'However he cautioned it would take ‘somewhere between 12 and 18 months' before passengers started noticing a difference at the airport.
‘This is something very significant as this it is the second largest airport in the UK. Everyone passing through Gatwick will now be benefiting from the leadership and vision of Adebayo Ogunlesi. It appears that his intention is to totally change the airport industry across the world. The progress that he has made as a businessman is something that we haven't seen among the business professionals and entrepreneurs from our communities living here in the United Kingdom yet,' OluAlake, President, 100 Black Men told Black Mental Health UK.
Ogunlesi is the first son of a medical professor who graduated from Oxford University with honours. He was then accepted to by Harvard Law School as one of three foreign students in his class, even though the school did not usually admit students who had been born and educated outside the United States at the time. At Harvard, Ogunlesi and W. Randy Eaddy became the first two editors of African descent to serve together on the prestigious Harvard Law Review. 
While studying for his law degree Ogunlesi also also enrolled at the Harvard Business School. Although he did not intend to pursue a business career, he thought that courses in finance would help him overcome his fear of numbers. While he was enjoying a successful legal career he was approached by bankers at First Boston who needed help in facilitation a  $6 billion deal with the Nigerian government. This change in career turned into a 20 years of working in the investment banking sector.
Inspired by Ougnlesi's sucess
deborah_gabriel200x200.png‘This confirms how diverse black people are; there is a portrayal that we see in the media black communities  are only ever associated with crime, social exclusion and low achievement, but the reality is we are as diverse as any other ethnic group with divisions on the basis of class, religion, education and wealth.  
This Ogunlesi ownership of Gatwick is a very inspirational story, whilst many of the young people from our communities living in the UK may not be able to identify with his background, they can still be inspired by his success. ' Deborah Gabriel, lecturer, entrepreneur and founder of People With Voices told Black Mental Health UK.
Research shows that there is a complete absence of any people from African Caribbean backgrounds who are on the board of any FTSE 100 Company.
Observers also note that the black professionals who have made it to the top positions in Briton's financial industries have been born and in many cases educated overseas.
‘The top black British chief executives are not black British, they are from the US.  This means that black business professionals are not getting the opportunities those talented professionals who have moved abroad are able to take advantage of. Tidjane Thiam at prudential is the first black CEO of a FTSE 100 organisation, he would not have been appointed as chief executive if he was born here. We know that because there aren't black people on the board of the FTS organisations much less coming close to becoming chief executives,' Olu Alake, President, 100 Black Men said.

Affirmative action needed
This should serve as a reminder that other countries, despite their  levels of discrimination  are still offering better opportunities to black people, that the majority of people in this country are not getting access to so we should not be surprised that we don't see so many black men here rising to such position.
‘The majority of people in this country are not being presented with the type of opportunities that Ogunlesi  has had - so we should not be surprised that we don't see so many black men here rising to such position. 
There are one million NEETs  (Not in Employment, Education or Training) in the UK, and recent studies show that black males  are over represented among with group, and are being seriously impacted by the recession and the levels unemployment.  There needs to be affirmative action to address this so that the Ogunlesi of this generation are denied their chances in life, 'Gabriel said.

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