Adebayo Ogunlesi

Head of global investment banking, Credit Suisse First Boston

Nationality: Nigerian.

Born: 1953, in Nigeria.

Education: Oxford University, BA, 1976; Harvard University, MBA, 1978; LLB, 1979.

Family: Married Amelia Quist (optometrist); children: two.

Career: U.S. Supreme Court, 1980–1983, clerk; Cravath, Swaine & Moore, 1983, associate; First Boston, Incorporated, 1983–?, associate; ?–1993, head of project finance group; 1993–1997, managing director of global energy group; Credit Suisse First Boston, 1997–2002, managing director of global energy group; 2002–, head of global investment banking and company director.

Awards: Seventh Most Powerful Black Executive, Fortune , 2002; International Center of New York Award, 2003.

Address: Credit Suisse First Boston, Incorporated, 11 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10010;

■ Adebayo Ogunlesi was an innovative investment banker who arranged financing for $20 billion worth of industrial projects in a career that spanned over 20 years with Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). Many of his clients were governments and firms developing energy resources in emerging markets. In 2002 Ogunlesi became the head of CSFB's global investment banking division with 1,200 bankers and $2.8 billion in assets under his supervision.


Adebayo Ogunlesi, called "Bayo" by family and friends, was born in Nigeria in 1953, the son of the first Nigerian-born professor of medicine to earn tenure at a medical school in his own country. Ogunlesi went to England in the 1970s to study philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree with honors. He was accepted by Harvard Law School as one of three foreign students in his class, even though the school did not usually admit students who had been born and educated outside the United States at the time. At Harvard, Ogunlesi and W. Randy Eaddy became the first two editors of African descent to serve together on the prestigious Harvard Law Review .

Ogunlesi also enrolled at the Harvard Business School at the same time that he was studying law. Although he did not intend to pursue a business career, he thought that courses in finance would help him overcome his fear of numbers. He finished his MBA program in 1978 and earned his law degree magna cum laude in 1979. Ogunlesi then served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1980 to 1983. He was the first non-American ever to clerk at the nation's highest court.

In 1983 Ogunlesi became an associate of the prestigious New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore after having worked for the firm as an intern. He had been practicing law for only nine months, however, when he was called by First Boston, an investment bank. The bank was helping the Nigerian government finance a $6 billion liquefied natural gas project. Its contact in Nigeria was a personal friend of Ogunlesi. The bankers at First Boston asked Cravath, Swaine if they could borrow Ogunlesi for three months to facilitate the deal.


Three months at the investment bank turned into 20 years. Ogunlesi's superiors at First Boston were pleased with his work and offered him a permanent position even though his homeland was in turmoil. He told the New York Times on one occasion, "Six months after I got here, there was a coup in Nigeria, the government got tossed out and my friend almost went to jail" (March 14, 2002). He rose through the ranks at First Boston from associate to head of the project-finance group. Ogunlesi spent much of his time traveling through countries regarded as emerging markets, where he brokered deals among lenders, governments, and firms developing such large projects as oil refineries, natural gas plants, and mines. The lenders recovered their investments from the proceeds of the projects funded.

Ogunlesi built First Boston's project-finance business into the world's largest by using "money-spinning innovations" ( New York , May 27, 2002) such as off-balance sheet financing and raising money through public debt markets. In off-balance-sheet financing, companies use sources other than equity or debt offerings to raise money; these sources can include joint ventures, operating leases, and research and development partnerships in which two companies, or a company and a university, share costs and resources to develop new products. Off-balance-sheet financing subsequently gained popularity in the 1990s. By raising money through public debt markets, companies could borrow money for longer terms than they would get from commercial lenders.

Ogunlesi was soon promoted to managing director of the project-finance group at First Boston. Over time his team absorbed several others, including the power, oil and gas, and chemicals groups. In 1993, this amalgamated unit was officially renamed the "Global Energy Group," but was informally dubbed "The Bayosphere." Known for his competitive spirit, Ogunlesi installed a foosball table in his office and had his name painted on one of the goalies—his way of saying that he was taking on the competition.


In 1997 First Boston was acquired by the Credit Suisse Group and renamed Credit Suisse First Boston, or CSFB. Ogunlesi became the head of the new firm's global investment banking division in 2002 at the age of 48. At that time global investment banking was one of CSFB's most influential divisions, employing 1,200 bankers and managing $2.8 billion in assets. Ogunlesi was also given seats on the bank's board of directors and its powerful 15-member operating committee. The chief executive of CSFB, John J. Mack, praised the new appointee in a press release. "Bayo Ogunlesi is a banker of powerful intellect, integrity and innovation. He has a broad global perspective and keen understanding of complex financial transactions. Our clients worldwide have benefited greatly from his strategic insight" (February 20, 2002). Another colleague put it more simply, "He's the smartest guy in the room" ( New York Times , March 14, 2002).

Other accolades quickly followed the news of Ogunlesi's appointment. Time magazine named Ogunlesi to its "2002 Global Influentials" list of the 15 most-promising young executives, while Fortune ranked him as the "Seventh Most Powerful Black Executive" in the United States.

Ogunlesi's first task after his promotion was to cut costs in the investment banking division, which had lost nearly $1 billion the previous year. The division was overstaffed as well as ineffective. Ogunlesi furloughed 300 bankers and 50 managing directors in the first few weeks of his new job. He also asked the remaining staff to accept pay cuts and reduce expenses. His economy measures showed some success when the bank's revenues in the following quarter increased by 25 percent.


The early years of the twenty-first century brought more difficult challenges. First, a bear market that started in 2000 made new financing difficult to find. Next, off-balance-sheet financing lost public favor when the energy company Enron abused the technique in order to hide its debts and risky investments, which contributed to its collapse in the winter of 2001. Still another scandal erupted in 2002, when some analysts at CSFB and other large brokerage firms were accused of openly giving some stocks a "buy" rating while secretly telling their larger clients to steer clear of them. CSFB and nine other firms eventually paid out $1.4 billion in 2003 to settle the charges without admitting guilt. Ogunlesi told New Zealand's Dominion Post that new rules had been enacted to create a "very clear separation" between equity market research and investment banking functions. Those rule changes would limit future conflicts of interest and "help restore confidence" in broker recommendations (May 13, 2003).

In addition to Ogunlesi's work at CSFB, he served as cochair of the Global Economic Forum's 2003 Africa Economic Summit and as an informal adviser to the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. Ogunlesi also raised funds for education and African charities.

sources for further information

"CSFB Names Tony James Chairman of Global Investment Banking and Private Equity; Adebayo Ogunlesi to Become Head of Global Investment Banking," press release, February 20, 2002, .

Gregory, Sean, "Adebayo Ogunlesi: CSFB's Global-Banking Chief. His Road from Nigerian Doctor's Son to Wall Street Boss Has Crossed Oil Fields, the Supreme Court and a Rifle or Two," Time , December 2, 2002, pp. 56–57.

Sorkin, Andrew Ross, "Accidental Investment Banker Shakes Up Credit Suisse Unit," New York Times , March 14, 2002.

Thomas, Landon Jr., "The New Color of Money," New York , May 27, 2002, pp. 32–35, 50.

Weir, James, "World Markets May Be on the Way Up," Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand), May 13, 2003.

—Kris Swank

User Contributions:

Olufemi Ogundipe
Bayo had his elementary school education at Abadina School, Ibadan , a primary school catering to the junior staff of The University of Ibadan. His father, Thophillus Ogunlesi was Professor of Medicine at the University of Ibadan Medical School.Bayo went from here to Kings College Lagos for his secondart school educationb, staying there through the sixth form. From here he headed for Oxford University where he graduated with honors. From Oxford, he headed for Harvard Law School. And the rest is history.

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