Young and industrious, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that 39 years old Sijibomi Ogundele is Nigeria’s youngest billionaire and real estate tsar, whose dexterous works have attracted more accolades and emulations across Nigeria and Africa. He shares with THISDAY his plans to build 100 luxury hotels, one in the State capital city of every African country, starting from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria before 2030 among his many other projects.
Ogundele, who today is the founder of Sujimoto Group, once hawked souvenir in France. He carried goods for his trader mum in Africa’s most populous market, Oke-Arin, where he was trained at the claws of Igbo traders, an act that since ignited his passion for business.
Growing up in the slum of Agege, Ogundele was first introduced to entrepreneurship business as a commercial motorcyclist (okada) from his little savings. Despite parental disapproval, he was bent on toeing the footsteps of his mother, an entrepreneur.
Soon, with only one motorcycle to his name, young Ogundele acquired five more, a testament to his selfless, resolute, and resilient business mind.
Today, he is the founder of Sujimoto Group, a group that deals in luxury construction behemoth (focused on building extraordinary edifices in premium neighbourhoods of Ikoyi and Banana Island).
Seen at Banana Island neighborhood inspecting the work done meticulously at the weekend, Ogundele said, “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”.
With an annual revenue of approximately $30m among many other pending projects, Ogundele expounded that the Sujimoto Group is worth over $400 million.
Indeed, as a lawyer tuned entrepreneur he is described as one whose ambition belies his modesty. This came to play after an encounter with the King of Dubai who pushed his ambitious project – LorenzoBySujimoto, from 15-storey buildings to a 30-storey buildings, 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 should not scare you”.
Just like everyone, Ogundele had a dream. His dream is to revolutionise the Nigerian luxury real estate space. With an ambition taller than the Burj Khalifa, he has steered his company to survive the brutal economic recessions within the last five years.
He enthused: “Sujimoto’s Giuliano project is 100 per cent covered in travertine stone, fully automated, 1st project with each unit having its private elevator and an award-winning Zaha Hadid Bathroom for Porscelanosa, attracting clients like MD of multinationals, billionaires and music entrepreneur – Davido.”
Sujimoto is dubbed the tallest residential building in Banana Island – the LucreziaBySujimoto. It is the first building splattered with Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC) façade among features like 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, the project 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, the selfless entrepreneur revealed, “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.”
According to Ogundele, many people approached them about building smaller and more affordable units with the Sujimoto standard. “We have responded with a revolutionary project called the LeonardoBySujimoto. With this, you can own a Sujimoto apartment without breaking the bank. We have studied the best apartments and what we are creating beats the best”.
Leonardo comes in two, three and four bedroom units. It is a great investment offer as the three bedrooms which are currently selling for N250m. It will go for N450m once the project is launched later in the year. “The present pricing still beats the best apartments in Bourdillon and Eko Atlantic. The current price offer will expire by the end of the month”.
According to Ogundele, they are bringing into the Nigerian hospitality and commercial space the same passion they redefined luxury living in Nigeria.
“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 1st becomes our priority, from Janitor to General Managers,” he maintained boldly.
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 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.
Noting that Sujimoto is building a world-class Plaza, first of its kind, in Ikoyi and Abuja, with a 2021 and 2022 projection for completion, “The six-in-one plaza by Sujimoto is a contemporary one-stop-shop retail and hospitality centre that features 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 N11billion annually. By 2030, we hope to have completed 61 different malls and plazas in Nigeria and across major African cities, a portfolio worth about $3billion.”
Despite the huge effect of the COVID-19 on businesses and economies, where banks have put a halt on every construction project, Sujimoto just raised N3.5 Billion for the Lucrezia which is sold out with just two units left.
“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 N5b into Sujimoto and get N10bn back in three years,” he noted.
One of the reasons Sujimoto can stand out and guarantee good price and quality is the strength of the company’s procurement capacity and global reach. “We don’t use 3rd 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”.
He averred: “Our biggest motivation is our critics. 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, three times more, just to prove that without a rich aunt 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 USD 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 neighborhood – 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 6-Months before completion.”
Reacting to the opinion that young and dynamic motomatician might be eyeing a political position, Ogundele said, “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 is Sujimoto”.