Dressed in a simple Polo T-Shirt on a Friday evening, Sijibomi Ogundele, Nigeria’s youngest billionaire and luxury real estate czar, can be seen on the Lucrezia project site, in the prestigious Banana Island neighbourhood, inspecting the work done and ensuring every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed.
No one would have thought that this man, who is currently worth billions, was once a souvenir hawker in France and also did alabaru for his trader mum in Africa’s most populous market, Oke-Arin, where he was nurtured by enterprising Igbo traders, which ignited his passion for business.
Growing up in the slum of Agege as a little 8-year-old, Sijibomi’s first introduction to entrepreneurship was when he started a bike business popularly called okada business from his little savings.
Despite the usual African parent’s disapproval, he drew inspiration from his mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and grew his motorcycle riding business from one to 6, a testament to his strong, resolute and resilient business mind.
A rose that grew from concrete, Mr Ogundele, who is only 39, has built his company, Sujimoto Group, in just 5 years, into a Luxury Construction behemoth, focused on building extraordinary edifices in premium neighbourhoods of Ikoyi and Banana Island.
With annual revenue of approximately $30 million and many other pending projects, Mr Ogundele believes the Sujimoto group is worth over $400 million.
His look may be modest but his ambition belies his modesty. After an encounter with the King of Dubai, who pushed his ambitious project, LorenzoBySujimoto, from 15 storey building to a 30-storey building, reminding him that, “To be second is to be last! If people in their 30’s are building 5000 units annually in Asia, 75 units shouldn’t scare you.”
According to Mr Ogundele, “I believe in Nigeria. My passion comes from my patriotism. I believe that the Nigeria that produced the MKOs, the Dantatas, and the Ojukwus, also has something great in store for me.”
The lawyer tuned entrepreneur, who is son to a John Holt Manager and a trader mother, never had the opportunity to attend King’s College or other expensive private schools but attended public schools.
With a dream to revolutionize the Nigerian luxury real estate space and an ambition taller than the Burj Khalifa, one can only wonder how he has steered his company to survive the brutal economic recessions within the last 5 years, growing stronger, bigger and better, to the consternation of the pessimists.
Sujimoto’s Giuliano project which is 100 per cent covered in travertine stone, fully automated, first project with each unit having its private elevator and an award-winning Zaha Hadid Bathroom for Porscelanosa, set the standard for a luxury terrace in Banana Island, attracting clients like MD of multinationals, billionaires and music entrepreneur, Davido.
A stone throws from the Giuliano; Sujimoto is building what has been dubbed the tallest residential building in Banana Island, the LucreziaBySujimoto.
A revolutionary building, never before seen in Nigeria or Africa! The first building with Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC) façade, Full Home Automation, private IMAX Cinema for the residents, standard crèche, Indoor Virtual Golf with over 2,500 courses worldwide to play on, swimming pool in the sky and other exciting features. Sitting on the 12th floor is the best penthouse in Africa; a project that sets an enviable standard for luxury residential apartments in Nigeria with a sales value worth $46 and a delivery deadline of December 2021.
Speaking on the Lucrezia, Mr Ogundele made a startling revelation; “We are building the best condominium not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. The Lucrezia Penthouse comes with a private elevator, private cinema, private golf, private gym, and a private pool!
“The Lucrezia is very special to us because Sujimoto is divesting from residential projects with 80 per cent of our real estate interest into commercial projects.”
When asked about the company’s plan to accommodate smaller units, Mr Ogundele was very quick to add that the company has a new project that is almost sold out!
According to him, “Many people have approached us about building smaller and more affordable units with the Sujimoto standard and we have responded with a revolutionary project called the LeonardoBySujimoto.
“With LeonardoBySujimoto, you can own a Sujimoto apartment without breaking the bank. We have studied the best apartments and what we are creating, beats the best.
“The affordable luxury project – Leonardo, comes in 2, 3, and 4 bedroom units and it is a great investment offer as the 3 bedrooms which are currently selling for N250 million will go for N450 million once the project is launched later in the year.”
According to Mr Ogundele, the present pricing still beats the best apartments in Bourdillon and Eko Atlantic. He also noted that the current price offer will expire by the end of the month.
He said “the same passion with which we redefined luxury living in Nigeria, is the same passion we are bringing into the Nigerian hospitality and commercial space.
“We have toured some of the best hotels in the world such as the Address Hotel, Downtown Dubai, the Baccarat Hotel in New York City, and the Dorchester Hotel in London.
“Sujimoto is building the S-Hotel, African hospitality with a four season services. We are building a hotel that is customer addictive, where putting the customer first becomes our priority, from janitor to general managers.”
“Three fundamental qualities separate the S Hotel from others: Design, Price, and Service. The plan is to get rid of mediocre experience in the hospitality industry, building one luxury hotel at a time.
“The focus, therefore, is to build one luxury hotel in the state capital city of every African country, starting from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
“The plan is before 2030, we would have built over 100 luxury hotels with 16,000 rooms, worth $1.9 billion in the portfolio, a move which will bring the company’s overall worth to over $5 billion in 10 years,” he added.
In addition to the company’s expansion plan, Mr Ogundele made it known that Sujimoto is building a world-class plaza, first of its kind, in Ikoyi and Abuja, with a 2021 and 2022 projection for completion.
This 6-in-1 plaza by Sujimoto is a contemporary one-stop-shop retail and hospitality centre, featuring innovative state-of-the-art equipment, rooftop lounge, and bar, premium restaurants, world-class gym, retail shops other premium features.
Upon completion, each project should be valued at approximately N47 Billion, with a combined rental income of about N11 billion annually.
According to Mr Ogundele, “By 2030, we hope to have completed 61 different malls and plazas in Nigeria and across major African cities, a portfolio worth about $3 billion.”
Despite the huge effect of the COVID-19 on businesses and economies, where banks have put a halt to every construction project, Sujimoto just raised N3.5 billion for the Lucrezia which is sold out with just 2 units left!
According to Mr. Ogundele Sujimoto, “At Sujimoto, we do not see a recession because for us crises are opportunities disguised as problems!
“We have developed a highly viable and profitable strategy and found an opportunity for savvy investors to invest N5 billion into Sujimoto and get N10 billion back in 3 years.
“This is debt and not equity, and it is guaranteed. Treasury bills and other money market instruments will give you a 5 – 10 per cent ROI on your investment, but this is 100 per cent ROI and it is guaranteed!
“This investment is NOT for everyone, it is ONLY for the vital few, who can identify opportunities when they see one.
One of the reasons why Sujimoto can stand out and guarantee good price and quality is the strength of the company’s procurement capacity and global reach,” Mr Ogundele explained.
He stressed that “We don’t use third parties when it comes to projects; we speak directly to the manufacturers because we want to guarantee two fundamental things – prudent spending and assurance of quality. With offices in Dubai, Gwanzo, and New York City and numerous ambitious projects, one wonders what Sujimoto Group will be worth in 10 years to come.
According to Mr. Ogundele; “Our biggest motivation is our critics because, without them, we couldn’t have come this far. There’s nothing we have today, that we got on a platter of gold. We worked two times harder, 3 times more, just to prove that without a rich aunty or uncle, you can get to your destiny”.
Speaking on some of the challenges he has had to contend with in business, Mr. Ogundele recalled the event of 2016 and 2017 where he had conceived and developed the biggest project in Nigeria, over $90 million to build the tallest residential building in Sub-Saharan Africa – the LorenzoBySujimoto.
“After all the investment in time, money, and passion, the recession hit badly, and investors pulled out. The economy was so bad that I had to refund hundreds of millions to our off-takers. Amid the chaos, like the phoenix that rises from the ashes, the Giuliano project was born!
“A project of terrace houses in Africa’s richest neighbourhood – Banana Island. And 20 months after, the record-breaking Giuliano has metamorphosed from a proof-of-concept to a proof-of-product! fully sold-out six months before completion.”
Many have opined that the young and dynamic Motomatician might be eyeing a political position, but according to Mr. Ogundele, “the business of politics is bigger than the politics of business. We are focused on business but we shall support the government. To us, the government is like a beautiful woman, marry her only when she is an asset, not a liability.”
When asked if he was married, the single and eligible bachelor, who insisted he was married without a wife, claimed that his wife is young and very jealous, she’s Sujimoto.