Shortly before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, reportedly Nigeria’s first black billionaire, and founding president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. The royal honor came after he helped the British during World War II with his fleet of trucks. He was so wealthy that during the Queen’s visit in 1956, she was chauffeured around in his Rolls-Royce – apparently the only one in the country at the time – on the request of the colonial administration.
Profiled in September 1965 by TIME magazine, Ojukwu made his money by importing dried fish for resale, and diversifying into textiles, cement and transport. When he died a year later, his wealth was an estimated $4 billion in today’s economic value.
His son, Chukwuemeka, who also ended up a billionaire, returned from Oxford University at 22 with a master’s degree in history and led his fellow Igbos into the Nigerian civil war as head of the secessionist state of Biafra in 1967.
Their hometown Nnewi, in the southeastern state of Anambra, either by good fortune or hard work, has bred more naira billionaires than any other town in Nigeria, and possibly Africa. The Igbos, who sometimes refer to themselves as the ‘Jews of Africa’, have entrepreneurship in their blood. They have built themselves from the ground up, with little help from the government, after a controversial policy left them all with 20 pounds each, regardless of their bank balance, at the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970.
Nicknamed the Japan of Africa, Nnewi is famous as a hub for automobile spare part dealers, and most recently, Innoson, Nigeria’s first indigenous car assembly plant. The town is also known for its factories that manufacture household goods and is home to the biggest road transport companies in the country. Nnewi, with a little over two million residents, is a 30-minute drive from the Onitsha – the biggest outdoor market in West Africa – on the banks of the Niger River.
These are 10 of the most prominent naira billionaires from Nnewi, in no particular order:
- Cletus Ibeto: The Ibeto Group has been described as the largest industrial enterprise in southeast Nigeria. Starting out as an apprentice to an already established auto spare parts dealer, Ibeto eventually branched out on his own and effectively ended importation of lead acid car batteries in Nigeria in the late 80s. The result is a conglomerate dealing in hospitality, motor products, real estate, petrochemicals, agriculture and cement.
- Cosmas Maduka: One of the country’s foremost car dealerships, Coscharis Group, is the brainchild of a man who lost his father at four and had to drop out of school to sell bean cakes, a popular food staple. His company, one of the largest car dealerships in Nigeria that deals with BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover and Rolls-Royce, has diversified into agriculture.
- Innocent Chukwuma: Another school dropout, he is the founder of Innoson Nigeria Limited which produces sport utility vehicles, commercial buses and passenger cars at the first indigenous assembly plant in Nigeria. The company has factories in Nnewi and Enugu and has the governments of Anambra and Enugu states, as well as a few federal agencies, among its customers.
- Gabriel Chukwuma: The elder brother of Innoson, Gabriel is invested in sports, real estate and hospitality. As chairman of Gabros International Football Club, he oversaw its rise into the Nigerian Premier League and partnership with English side, West Ham FC before selling to fellow Nnewi entrepreneur, Ifeanyi Ubah. He began business as a patent medicine dealer.
- Alexander Chika Okafor: Chicason Industries, and one of its products – A-Z Petroleum, are household names in Nigeria. The conglomerate has made significant inroads in the mining, manufacturing, and real estate in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Okafor is its founder and chairman.
- Augustine Ilodibe: An orphan and mass server in the Catholic church, young Ilodibe was gifted £35 by one of the priests and he initially invested in motor spare parts trading. By the sixties, he pioneered the interstate luxury bus transport service; for years, he was the sole importer of these buses. After helping organize vehicles for the Biafran side during the civil war, he established the hugely popular Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport, his main cash cow and later diversified into brewery and agriculture.
- Ifeanyi Ubah: The flamboyant businessman funded parts of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign ahead of the 2015 presidential polls and unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of his home state, Anambra, in 2014. His wealth comes from investments in oil and gas, as well as exportation of motor spare parts and, recently, from sales of football players. In June 2015, Ubah – described by one Nigerian newspaper as ‘the new sugar daddy of Nigerian football’ – completed the purchase of Gabros FC for N500 million and renamed it Ifeanyi Ubah FC.
- Louis Onwugbenu: The head honcho of Louis Carter Industries dropped out of school in 1967 when the Nigerian civil war broke out. He got his nickname from weekly trips to Lagos to sell motor spare parts under the popular Carter Bridge in the city. His reinvested profits allowed him to diversify into manufacturing car batteries and pipe fittings, agriculture, food processing, real estate and, by the age of 30, he was already a naira multimillionaire. The headquarters of his conglomerate sits in the Carter Industrial Estate, spanning many acres in Nnewi.
- Obiajulu Uzodike: Nigeria is one of the foremost cable producers in the world due to many indigenous manufacturers across the southeast. One of the top cable companies is Cutix Nigeria, whose founder, Obiajulu Uzodike, cut his teeth in the business as a staff at a US-based aircraft and military wires and accessories company. By 1982, the Harvard Business School alumna and civil war veteran set up Cutix with N400,000 ($1,200), nurturing it to eventually become the first indigenous firm in the southeast to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
-Written by Eromo Egbejule
Luxury Goods Titan Bernard Arnault Becomes World’s Third $100 Billion Man
One of the world’s ultimate taste-makers, Bernard Arnault entered an ultra-rarefied club this week. As of Thursday June 20, he was worth just over $100 billion, making him one of three people in the world with 12-figure fortunes.
He joins Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, worth an estimated $157.5 billion, and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, worth an estimated $103.1 billion. Bezos, who first passed $100 billion in 2017, will soon give a slice of that fortune away.
He and his wife, MacKenzie, are in the process of finalizing their divorce. The couple announced in early April that she will receive a quarter of his Amazon stake, currently valued at more than $37 billion. Gates reached $100 billion in April, thanks to strong earnings from Microsoft.
Arnault’s luxury goods group, LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, has been having a great year. In April, it announced record first quarter sales and profits on top of a strong 2018. Its shares are up more than 40% so far in 2019, boosting Arnault’s fortune by more than $20 billion.With his family, he owns 46% of LVMH and serves as both its chairman and CEO.
The growth comes as high-end buyers around the world continue to pick up luxury goods and spirits, despite fears that demand, particularly in China, would slow down. Thirty-five years after Arnault first got into luxury goods with the purchase of Christian Dior, he continues to refresh LVMH by finding ways to appeal to a new generation of customers while retaining the traditional values and high quality that have defined its brands.
That includes innovative partnerships like the two with Rihanna — Fenty Beauty and Fenty fashion house — as well as recent deals such as the acquisition of Belmond, which operates luxury hotels, trains and even safaris.
“People do not understand that success stems from the cohabitation of two contradictory spirits: the artist’s vision and the logic of worldwide marketing,” Arnault told Forbes in 1997. “It’s a very complex process.”
Forbes first wrote about Arnault in 1991 when he was worth $200 million. He has since been featured several times and has appeared on our cover. He made his debut in our Billionaires ranks in 1997. Some readers may know his story well but it’s one worth retelling.
A native of France’s cold, flat industrial north, Arnault was a star student at France’s prestigious Ecole Polytechnique. The son of a construction tycoon, Arnault spent three years in the U.S. in the early 1980s trying to establish a branch of his family’s real estate business, Ferinel, as a developer of Florida vacation properties.
After three years he returned home. But he learned a valued lesson in America, according to a 1997 Forbes profile on Arnault. Before leaving, he sold his Mediterranean-style home facing Long Island Sound in New Rochelle, N.Y. to American tycoon John Kluge, owner of the mansion next door. Kluge tore it down because it blocked his view.
“It was just incredible!” Arnault told Forbes. “It was a very nice place, but two days after he bought it, he tore my house down! It’s so very…American.” Lesson learned: “When something has to be done,” says Arnault, “do it! In France we are full of good ideas, but we rarely put them into practice.”
He returned back to France ready to make some moves. In 1984, Arnault put up $15 million of his family’s money to rescue bankrupt textile empire Boussac (Lazard put up the rest). Among Boussac’s mixed bag assets was money-losing fashion house Christian Dior.
That became the first of many Arnault acquisitions and the cornerstone of his massive luxury goods empire. Over the years, LVMH snapped up such brands such as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Sephora. Today LVMH has nearly $53 billion in sales from 70 brands and 4,590 retail stores.
-Luisa Kroll; Forbes Staff
The World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players 2019: Messi, Ronaldo And Neymar Dominate The Sporting World
This past season marked the end of an era in soccer, or football to those outside of the United States whose eyes were about to bleed.
For the first time in a decade, not a single matchup took place between the two greatest players in the world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Their epic 30-match run of El Clásico clashes, the name for the fixtures between Barcelona and Real Madrid, bitter rivals and the world’s most valuable soccer clubs, came to an end last summer when Ronaldo left Spain’s La Liga to join Juventus in Italy’s Serie A.
Also for the first time in over a decade, neither Messi nor Ronaldo won FIFA’s coveted Player of the Year Award, voted on by the international media, national team coaches and national team captains. Luka Modric, Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate and captain of the Croatian national team, took that trophy home.
But as sad as the loss of this rivalry was for fans—including Messi, who admitted to missing competing against Ronaldo—it seemingly had little effect on either superstar’s performance or purse.
For the second year in a row, Messi takes the top spot among the World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players, with earnings of $127 million. Thanks to the contract extension he signed in November 2017 that commits him to Camp Nou through June 2021, he hauled in $92 million in salary and bonuses before taxes, a 9.5% bump over what he made on the pitch last year.
Part of that increase came by way of performance-incentive pay. The 32-year-old striker topped La Liga’s charts for both goals (36) and assists, marking his fifth season of 35 or more goals. It was also his sixth season in which he scored 50 or more goals across all club competitions.
He shone brightly in the club’s run-up to quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, with the Argentine the top goal scorer of that competition, hitting the back of the net 12 times in 10 appearances.
To an already-rich list of sponsors off the pitch, including lifetime partner Adidas, Mastercard and PepsiCo soft drink and snack brands, Messi added high-end watchmaker Jacob & Co. to his portfolio this year. His first signature timepiece is a limited edition of 180 starting at $28,000.
More recently, he partnered with MGO—a brand portfolio company whose chief creative officer is Tommy Hilfiger’s sister, Ginny Hilfiger—to create a signature line of clothing. It is expected to launch in July on the Messi Store, a global e-commerce site.
Ronaldo earned $109 million to come in at No. 2 among the sport’s top earners. It is a negligible increase over his tally last year, a result of taking what amounted to a pay cut to join Juventus after nine years with Real Madrid. His current four-year playing contract pays him a gross annual salary of $64 million and contains no bonus or incentives, per sources close to the deal. But hold back your tears for him.
After nine years with La Liga’s Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo surprised the world on July 16, 2018, with news of his move to Juventus in Italy’s Serie A. (Photo credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images) GETTY
Under the Italian tax code, Italian-sourced income, like the salary Ronaldo earns playing for Juve, is taxed at an ordinary top rate of 43%. Outside earnings are treated differently, though, and are subject only to a single, flat tax of about $115,000.
This structure bodes well for Ronaldo, a walking billboard who pitches products head to toe and earned $44 million last year doing so, almost entirely outside of Italy. It also softens the blow he was dealt this past January when he pleaded guilty to tax fraud in Spain for concealing income from commercial image rights earned between 2010 and 2014 and was ordered to pay a $21.6 million fine.
The 34-year-old Portuguese winger is making out well on the pitch, too. He scored 21 goals to lead Juventus to its eighth straight Serie A title and in the process became the first player to win league titles in Italy, Spain and England.
By Forbes’ estimates, assuming he keeps his playing contract and current sponsors and partners (amid an open sexual assault case filed against him in U.S. federal court), Ronaldo is on pace to become the third active athlete to crack the $1 billion mark in career earnings this upcoming season.
Golfer Tiger Woods was the first to do so in 2009, followed by Floyd Mayweather in 2017. (Michael Jordan joined the billionaire athlete club in retirement largely because of his deal with Nike and is now worth $1.9 billion because of his ownership of the Charlotte Hornets.)
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Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar Jr. made $105 million last year to round out the top three highest-earning soccer players. His transfer from Barcelona to the French capital stands as the most expensive in the world at $263 million, and his five-year, $350 million total in salary and bonuses will keep him near the top of this list through June 2022.
Neymar partnered with Diesel to launch a signature fragrance in May 2019. (photo credit: Julien Hekimian/Getty Images for Diesel) GETTY
If a report by state-owned public television station France 2 is to be believed and his contract contains a behavior clause bonus, the 27-year-old Brazilian striker may not see all of that money. In the past three months, he’s made international headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In April, UEFA handed him a three-match suspension for insulting match officials on Instagram after Paris Saint-Germain lost to Manchester United in the Champions League. He will miss half of the group-stage competition next season. The same week, he was caught on video getting into an altercation with a fan in the stands after PSG’s loss in the French Cup and was subsequently handed a three-game suspension by his own club.
Following that, his national team stripped him of his captaincy for this summer’s Copa America tournament. Then, in early June, a woman filed a rape claim against him in Brazilian court, stemming from an encounter she had with the soccer star in Paris in May. (Neymar has denied the allegations.)
This week, PSG’s chairman publicly warned Neymar through an interview with France Football that he only wants players “willing to give everything for the shirt” and that “players will have to be more responsible than before.”
Since Forbes began tracking athletes three decades ago, this is the first time the top three highest earners in soccer also sit on top of the list of The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes.
One reason is that they are the three most popular athletes in the world on social media and produce high-quality, commercially driven posts for their sponsors that garner them big bucks.
Ronaldo is the most popular and engaging among them. His 370 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter transcend sports and make him one of the most followed people in the world. For perspective, he gained 48 million new followers in the past year, an amount that exceeds the total follower count of Manchester United and the French World Cup champion Paul Pogba (ranked No. 4 among the World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players, with total earnings of $33 million).
During his last season with Real Madrid, Ronaldo generated $474 million in value for his sponsors on social media—an amazing return on their $47 million investment in him—and another $274 million for then-club sponsor Adidas.
This past season also ushered in the dawn of a new era. While his social media following has a long way to go to reach the stratosphere of the three highest-paid, PSG forward Kylian Mbappé (No. 7, $30.6 million in earnings) is generating both the quantity and the quality of buzz that position him to join their ranks, and even jump them.
The 20-year-old newcomer, the youngest on our list, had his global introduction at last year’s World Cup, scoring four goals in seven matches to help lead his French side to a championship victory. At 19, he was the second-youngest player to score a goal in the tournament, behind Brazilian soccer legend Pelé.
After winning the 2018 World Cup’s Best Young Player Award, Mbappé returned to his club and won Ligue 1’s 2019 Player of the Year Award as its 2018-19 top goal scorer. In between, he picked up endorsements with Hublot, which made him its first active player ambassador, and French baby food maker Good Gout. He hobnobbed with David Beckham. He graced the cover of Time. And he donated the $500,000 World Cup bonus he earned to a French hospital that organizes sporting events for disabled children.
His largest sponsor, Nike, also a French national team sponsor, is already thinking ahead to the 2026 World Cup, which will be cohosted by the United States. Mbappé will be just 27 then, and may very well be the only one on our current list still playing for his national team. The time to start exposing him to the market is now.
Nike invited Mbappé out to its headquarters and escorted him on a mini-West Coast tour last week, complete with meetings with sporting legends LeBron James, Steve Nash and Brandi Chastain, and arranged for his Hollywood debut—throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium.
“We see Kylian as a global superstar, and certainly the U.S. is a key component of the global marketplace,” said Heidi Burgett, senior director of global communications at Nike. “We certainly think Kylian has a very bright future with his joyful and fast brand of football, as well as his strong sense of purpose on and off the pitch.”
Modric, the reigning FIFA player of the year, missed our list this year. But the Croatian national team captain agreed to a new contract with Real Madrid in February that ties him to the Bernabeu until June 2021 and could land him a spot here next year. His salary reportedly matches that of his teammate Sergio Ramos, who ranks No. 19 on our list with total earnings of $21.9 million, of which $19.9 is in salary and bonus.
Nike is Modric’s largest sponsor. In 2018, he admitted in Spanish court to tax evasion and agreed to pay a fine in excess of $1.3 million. He used the same lawyer as former teammate Ronaldo.
Beyoncé And Jay-Z’s Combined Billion-Dollar Fortune Makes Them One Of The Richest Self-Made Couples
“Got that dinero on my mind,” Beyoncé and Jay-Z wrote on the third track of their surprise album Everything is Love, which came out last June. A year later, it’s clear that the couple wasn’t just taking poetic license: With Jay-Z’s newly minted status as a billionaire and Beyoncé’s place on Forbes’ richest self-made women list, the music moguls are one of America’s wealthiest couples.
It’s been a banner year for the married couple, whose combined net worth now totals an estimated $1.4 billion. Jay-Z, whose steadily growing portfolio of businesses includes liquor, art, real estate and stakes in companies like Uber, is the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire.
Meanwhile Beyoncé , whose fortune increased to an estimated $400 million from $355 million last year thanks to continued touring and an album release, ranks No. 51 on Forbes 2019 list of America’s most successful self-made women (up two places from last year).
Their combined net worth of $1.4 billion makes the music moguls one of the 10 most successful husband-and-wife teams in the country, and certainly the most recognizable. Unlike many other couples who founded businesses together, they both struck it rich with complementary but separate businesses. Beyoncé’s wealth comes mostly from earnings from touring, music sales and merchandise.
Her husband, on the other hand, amassed most of his wealth from his ownership of Armand de Brignac champagne, investments, his cognac partnership with Bacardi and his own music career, among other sources. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have stakes in music streaming service Tidal.
Other entrepreneurial husband-and-wife teams might not be as famous, but their businesses are well known. Do Won and Jin Sook Chang came from South Korea in 1981 in search of better opportunities. “At the time [people in] South Korea weren’t living as well,” Do Won told Forbes in 2016.
He worked three jobs as a dishwasher, gas station attendant and office cleaner while she worked in a hair salon. They saved up and in 1984 opened a clothing store. Today they co-own and run Forever 21, a clothing empire with over 815 stores and $4 billion in sales. Their combined net worth is $3 billion.
Another couple, the Cherngs, found success together through food. Andrew Cherng opened a Chinese restaurant with his father in 1973. His wife Peggy, who had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and held positions at 3M and the U.S. Navy, gave it all up to help her husband expand the one restaurant into a Chinese fast-food chain. That chain, Panda Express, along with several other fast casual chains the couple owns stakes in, have brought the Cherngs’ combined net worth to $3.4 billion.
Sometimes the strength of a husband-wife partnership comes from their ability to support one another. This was the case for Eren Ozmen and her husband Fatih, the president and CEO team behind aerospace giant Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC).
Before they were a couple, Fatih encouraged Eren to pursue an M.B.A. (the couple originally met at Ankara University in Turkey before separately immigrating to the U.S.).
Once they were married, Eren put her business school training to good use by helping automate the financial reports at Fatih’s employer, a then-struggling SNC. Eventually, the couple decided to buy the company and took the business from the verge of bankruptcy to a top military contractor.
While building a vast fortune is rare for couples running businesses together, it has been a winning formula for some women: Nearly one fourth of those on Forbes’ 2019 self-made women list achieved their fortunes through businesses they cofounded with their husbands (though some now are widows or have since divorced).
Below are the 10 wealthiest self-made husband and wife teams in the nation:
1. Tom & Judy Love
Net worth: $5.9 Billion
Tom and Judy Love leased their first gas station in Watonga, Oklahoma, with a $5,000 loan from Tom’s parents. Now Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has more than 430 locations in 41 states.
2. Lynda & Stewart Resnick
Net worth: $5.6 Billion
The couple are the force behind snack and drink conglomerate the Wonderful Co., known for Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, Halos mandarin oranges and Fiji water. The couple is also known for philanthropy, giving millions of dollars to educational causes and earning the #29 spot on Forbes’ list of top givers.
3. Diane von Furstenberg & Barry Diller
Net worth: $4 billion
Diller is founder, senior executive and chairman at internet and media conglomerate IAC,. His wife Von Furstenberg is the designer and founder of the eponymous fashion label. Diller owns one third of DVF, while Von Furstenberg and her two children from a previous marriage own the rest.
4. Peggy & Andrew Cherng
Net Worth: $3.4
In addition to fast-food chain Panda Express, the Cherngs also own stakes in Urbane Cafe, Just Salad, Uncle Tetsu, Pieology and Ippudo.
5. Jin Sook & Do Won Chang
Net Worth: $3 billion
The Changs’ clothing retailing business is all in the family—the couple’s nieces work at the company as do their daughters, who launched Forever 21’s beauty brand Riley Rose.
6. Eren & Fatih Ozmen
Net Worth: $2.8 billion
The Ozmens built their defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. through a series of some 20 acquisitions. Describing their strategy, Eren told Forbes last year: “Our guys go hunting, and they bring me this giant bear and say, ‘Now you do the skinning and clean it up.’ ”
7.Neerja Sethi & Bharat Desai
Net worth: $2.4 billion
Sethi and Desai cofounded IT consulting and outsourcing firm Syntel out of their Troy, Michigan, apartment in 1980. In October 2018, French IT company Atos SE bought Syntel for $3.4 billion.
8. Weili Dai & Sehat Sutardja
Net Worth: $2 billion
The couple headed semiconductor company Marvell Technology for 11 years until they were forced out as a result of an internal accounting investigation in 2016. Neither was found guilty of any fraudulent activity. The couple has diversified their investments into real estate and technology.
9. Kit Crawford & Gary Erickson
Net Worth: $1.8 billion
The couple behind Clif Bar met at Erickson’s bakery, where Crawford was working part-time. They each have a 40% stake in the company.
10. Beyoncé & Jay-Z
Net Worth: $1.4 billion
The musicians have shown distinct business savvy, giving users of Tidal, the music streaming service the couple partially owns, exclusive access to their albums.
-Catherine Perloff; Forbes Staff
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