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Tony Elumelu: How a copier salesman turned to billionaire banker



Tony Elumelu is one of Nigeria’s richest men in Nigeria and chairman of Heirs Holdings and Transcorp.

As of 2015, Forbes estimated his net worth at $700 million and ranked the 31st richest person globally. He was, however, dropped off the Forbes list in 2016.

Elumelu does not wake up to become a billionaire in Naira. He worked his way up the ladder.

“I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of the thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision?-?but also luck”.

-Tony Elumelu

Who is Tony Elumelu?

His full name is Anthony Onyemaechi Elumelu. He is the Founder and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, his family-owned investment company.

Tony is also the chairman of the pan-African financial services group, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), which operates in 20 countries in Africa, the United Kingdom, and France, and is the only African bank with a commercial deposit-taking presence in the United States. 


Tony Elumelu was born on March 22, 1963. As of March 22, 2023, he is 60 years old.

Where is Tony Elumelu from?

Elumelu was born in Jos, Plateau, Nigeria, on 22 March 1963, to Suzanne and Dominic Elumelu from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State.

He grew up with four siblings, one of whom is Ndudi Elumelu, a minority leader in the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.

Wife and Children

Tony Elumelu is married to Dr Awele Vivien Elumelu. Awele Vivien is the Chairperson of Avon Healthcare Limited. She is also the Chief Executive Officer of Avon Medical Services Limited and oversees the healthcare investments of Heirs Holdings.

She holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Benin.

The couple has 5 children.


He studied Economics at Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli University), obtaining a Bachelor of Science with a Lower Second Class (2:2).

Afterward, he studied and received a Master of Science degree in Economics at the University of Lagos.

Elumelu rise to fame

Elumelu worked in the Nigerian Bank Union Bank as a Youth Corp member during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1985 before starting his career as a salesman.

He subsequently joined Allstates Trust Bank. In 2005 and United Bank for Africa (UBA) was acquired afterwards.

In 1997, Elumelu led a small group of investors to take over a struggling Crystal Bank (later renamed Standard Trust Bank).

He turned it profitable within a few years and in 2005, being given $20 million (N2 billion) by billionaire Femi Otedola, he led one of the largest mergers in the banking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa by acquiring United Bank for Africa (UBA).

According to Tony Elumelu, his age was no barrier to him becoming the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Trust Bank and one of the youngest bank CEOs in Nigeria at the age of 34.

Following the merger of Standard Trust Bank and United Bank for Africa in 2005, Elumelu led the company as Group Managing Director from a single-country banking group to a pan-African bank with subsidiaries in 20 African countries, France, the U.S and the U.K, eventually stepping down in 2010.

Elumelu currently chairs the board of the United Bank for Africa.


Accused of being involved in NITEL’s N41 billion fraud

A Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public in 2020 accused Tony Elumelu of being involved in a N41 billion fraud committed against the defunct telecommunication company and national carrier, NITEL.

Chairman of the committee, Ayo Akinyelure, claimed UBA made unauthorised withdrawals from the accounts of the liquidated telecommunications companies four times and technically stole N41 billion out of the N42 billion that liquidators of the firm deposited there.

Elumelu however denied the allegation while demanding an Akinyelure retract his comments linking him (Mr Elumelu) to the fraud.

Allegedly betrayed Femi Otedola

“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.”

Awards and Recognition

He was named in the 2020 Time100 Most Influential People in the World, recognised for his business leadership and economic empowerment of young Africans.


The information in this article was curated from online sources. NewsWireNGR or its editorial team cannot independently verify all details.

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