By Kunle Adedoyin
In a rare news report, the United States based financial data media house, Bloomberg, has disclosed that Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.), a former Minister of Defence, is worth about $1.2bn (N432bn).
Bloomberg’s latest report revealed that Danjuma owns not less than 30 properties worldwide some of which include hotels and luxury apartments.
The report also stated that Danjuma had also acquired the ‘Kings Arms Hotel,’a 300-year-old inn next to London’s Hampton Court Palace, once the home of King Henry VIII.
It’s set to open soon after refurbishment, with rooms costing about 250 British pounds ($318) per night.
The report read in part, “In this most English of settings, it’s fitting the owner is a retired military man still referred to as “General.”
But for Theophilus Danjuma, this is just one investment in a network of assets that span at least four continents.
“The 80-yearold Nigerian is worth $1.2bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with his family office managing a portion of that wealth, often through low-key holdings such as the 14-room hotel.”
Hannatu Gentles, the second daughter of the retired general, confirmed to Bloomberg in an interview that the property was indeed bought by the family for 2.4m British pounds (N1.09bn).
Gentles said redevelopment work was expected to end in March, filings show, but the inn’s age and protected status resulted in higher costs and delays.
“This is the first, and will possibly be the last, listed building we’ve worked on,” Gentles said.
“It’s taken longer than we wanted, but our name is attached to the building and we want to be proud of our work. It’s been a hard slog.”
In 2006, his South Atlantic Petroleum Limited sold almost half its contractor rights for a section off Nigeria’s coast to a state-backed Chinese firm for $1.8bn.
The ex-minister was awarded the block in 1998 by the regime of former dictator and fellow army officer, Sani Abacha, making him one of a handful of Nigerians made extraordinarily wealthy from the country’s energy reserves.
Danjuma, born in 1938, gained prominence after participating in the 1966 counter-coup against Nigeria’s first military leader, Louis Aguiyi-Ironsi. He later became Chief of Staff for Nigerian Army.
He left the military in 1979 and founded his oil firm and a shipping company, NAL-Comet, which now has more than 2,000 employees in Nigeria.
Danjuma paid $25m in 1998 for the oil field exploration licence that made him a billionaire. A year later, he became Nigeria’s Defence Minister under Olusegun Obasanjo, his friend and fellow retired Army General, as the country returned to democracy.
He originally teamed up with Total SA and Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA on the block. The minority stake that Danjuma’s company now owns is worth $450m, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index.
“Beyond the UK, they own real estate in California and have bought and sold property in Singapore. Their family office also oversees private equity investments, trust funds and a venture capital arm that backs family-run art and film companies. The Danjumas own more than 30 properties worldwide, filings show,” the report stated.
Confirming this, Danjuma’s daughter added, “We invest in real estate in other jurisdictions, but in the UK we always thought let’s stick to areas that we know.”
She noted that her father bought a residence in Singapore years ago, “and it made sense then to buy some more,” she said, adding they’ve since sold the properties because of tax law changes.
In addition to the Kings Arms Hotel, the Danjumas have developed residential properties this year in Esher and Wimbledon. They also own a boutique hotel in Lagos, serving beef carpaccio and lobster bisque in one of three dining areas and displaying works from the family’s art firm.