Foremost entrepreneur Michael Ibru dies at 85

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Nigeria’s foremost entrepreneur and the patriarch of the Ibru dynasty, Olorogun Michael Christopher Onajirevbe Ibru OFR has died at the age of 85 years.

Born in 1930 in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, the late businessman was the head of the Ibru Organization, one of the largest conglomerates in Nigeria.

According to family sources who confirmed Mr. Ibru’s death to SaharaReporters, the late Michael Ibru, who had been battling with his health for over eight years, died in the early hours of Tuesday in Florida, U.S.

His death came just over one month after the burial of his younger brother, Olorogun Felix Ibru, the first civilian governor of Delta State.

He was married to Cecilia Ibru, the former CEO of the now defunct Oceanic Bank, who was arrested and jailed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Ibru was born to the family of Peter Ibru, a missionary worker, who also worked at the Igbobi Orthapaedic Hospital, Lagos.

olorogunchildhood

Being the first of seven children of an itinerant preacher, Olorogun Ibru was saddled with enormous responsibility of looking after his younger siblings.

When Ibru left Igbobi College, he joined Nigerian first conglomerate, the United Africa Company UAC, as a management trainee in 1951. In 1956, a few years after joining UAC, he left the company and established his own company, which he named LAIBRU in partnership with an expatriate, Mr. Jimmy Large.

Ibru’s first business took him all over the world and he bought into an existing construction company – Associated Construction and Engineering – later to be known as ACE JOMONA. This company successfully built Queen’s College, Yaba, St. Gregory’s College, Obalende; the Police College, Ikeja and the Navy Barracks along Mobil Road, Apapa, Lagos. But the long-winded process of contract acquisition coupled with delayed payment for executed projects forced him to re-think his business strategy.

After engaging in general trading with some success, in 1957, Michael Ibru discovered that the frozen fish market was a fertile market with the potential to deliver returns above the market rate.

However, it was a tough market to penetrate, at the time, many expatriate firms and Nigerian traders were lacking and some were not interested in the market. But he felt he could put extra effort communicating with general traders, who played key roles in products acceptance.

To trade in seafood, he established an importing company, he also rented and built cold storage facilities across the country.

By the mid-1960s trading fish had become the traditional money maker for the Ibru organization. Though he had other profitable interests such as transportation and construction, fish trading helped him secure financing and other forms of capital to engage in large scale trading. He established a partnership with a Taiwanese company, Osadjere Fishing Company, which provided Trawlers and other accessories for trading.

By the end of the 1960s, he branched out fully into other areas of the economy. Like a lot of his contemporaries, he established a transportation company, called Rutam.

Rutam Limited was established as a major sales and service company for the distribution of cars, tractors, trucks, and other equipment. Before then, in 1959, Aero Contractors of Nigeria was formed. In 1973, Oteri Holdings became the exclusive partner with a 40 per cent stake in Aero and this grew into a 60 per cent ownership stake in 1976. Among the several companies owned by the Ibru Organisation are Aden River Estate Ltd, Mitchell Farms, Guardian Newspapers Ltd. Time Out Nig. Ltd., Ibru Merchandise 33 Ltd, Zabadne Company Ltd., Ibron Ltd. Atlantic Estate Ltd, Ibachem Nigeria Ltd., Emsee Shipping Ltd. Ibafon Oil Ltd, Waskar Ltd, amongst others. He also invested in palm oil production.

Over the years, the Ibru Organization has expanded into other areas such as Tourism, Brewery, Timber and Poultry.

Chief Ibru had five wives and seventeen children, the most prominent being Olorogun Oskar Ibru (who heads Ibafon Ports) and Oboden Ibru (who is a key player in Oceanic bank International PLC).

He also tried his hands in politics, in 1983, he was a gubernatorial candidate but lost to Samuel Ogbemudia. He is also a member of the Liberal Convention and the New Movement, which metamorphosed to become NRC.

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