“Adebayo Ogunlesi: From Contrarian Bet to $12.5 Billion BlackRock Tie-Up”

By  Milcah   Tanimu

Adebayo Ogunlesi, co-founder of Global Infrastructure Partners, attributes a career-defining move leading to a $12.5 billion deal and a leadership role at BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, to a contrarian decision made years ago. In 2005, Ogunlesi, then a top banker at Credit Suisse, was reluctant to undertake a major task but his wife, Amelia, issued an ultimatum: “Either you decide you like your job and you want to keep doing it. Or, if you decide you don’t, go find something else. But please don’t think you can spend the next five years moaning.” This prompted Ogunlesi to quit banking and venture into investing.

Choosing a contrarian path, Ogunlesi, along with colleagues, formed Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in 2006, focusing on the financing and operation of airports, energy plants, and other critical infrastructure. Despite skepticism, GIP rapidly grew, accumulating $105 billion in assets in just 17 years and becoming a pioneer in a $1 trillion sector, one of the fastest-growing segments of money management.

The recent $12.5 billion tie-up with BlackRock positions Ogunlesi on BlackRock’s board and global executive committee, solidifying his standing as one of Wall Street’s wealthiest and most influential figures. The deal involves Ogunlesi and his GIP colleagues becoming the second-largest shareholders of BlackRock.

Ogunlesi, born in Nigeria and raised in Lagos, holds degrees from Oxford and Harvard. His career has spanned law, banking, and infrastructure investment. Known for his pragmatic approach, Ogunlesi emphasizes the importance of finding people smarter than oneself and creating a team focused on excellence. Despite facing challenges, such as a disastrous investment in a UK waste management company in 2008, GIP implemented strategies to enhance operational efficiency and customer service across its diverse portfolio, which includes airports, pipelines, data centers, and high-speed rail.

With the BlackRock deal, Ogunlesi envisions building the premier infrastructure investing business, leveraging BlackRock’s extensive reach and assets. While joining BlackRock increases Ogunlesi’s public profile, he remains pragmatic and committed to the mission ahead.

Adebayo Ogunlesi’s journey from a reluctant banker to a leader in infrastructure investment reflects his contrarian mindset and determination to succeed in uncharted territories.


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