My Life After Seplat

By Austin Avuru

In my last five years as Chief Executive Officer of Seplat I had an official, professional mentor resident in London, who acted as my sounding board on most critical decisions. As I was winding down, the issue of my post retirement plans came into stronger focus.

I was clear in my mind what I was going to do. In my planning, I started by isolating what I was NOT going to do….

  • I would not go into consulting
  • I would not run a contracting (Service) Company
  • I would not go into the Oil and Gas downstream business.

I decided that I was going to set up a Family Office – a family funded investment vehicle, through which I would incubate new businesses and manage any investments that I have. I zeroed in on four areas of interest that I would seek business opportunities….

  • Upstream Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate
  • Green House Farming
  • Investments in Nigeria listed equities.

I went ahead to set up an Isles of Man and Nigerian registered family trust, “Austin Avuru Holdings Limited” as the holding company for all my business interests. In the last two years of my service in Seplat, I held quarterly review meetings with my mentor and crystalized, both my succession plans in Seplat as well as my post retirement business plans. By August 2018, I started putting the building blocks in place.

I bought a piece of property on Oba Elegushi Road, Ikoyi, at the time occupied by a private primary school. There is an interesting story to the purchase of this property.

When my estate agents called me to inform me about the sudden availability of this property, I did not immediately have cash. The property cost ₦450,000,000.00 (Four hundred and fifty Million Naira only) and I could internally raise ₦150,000,000.00 (One hundred and fifty Million Naira). I called my GM Finance and the General Counsel in Seplat and asked them if they could arrange a short-term company loan of ₦300,000,000.00 (Three hundred Million naira only) which I would pay back as soon as dividends were paid in about six months. The General Counsel laughed out loud and announced to me that, that would amount to an insider loan to a director. She said it was a governance red flag and that it didn’t matter whether it was ₦3,000,000 or ₦300,000,000.00, the exercise was forbidden. I said to myself …. “So much for the monster I have created in the name of Corporate Governance”. But, so it was. The discussion didn’t go any further than that. Next, I put a call through to the MD/CEO of Platform Petroleum, my parent company where I was Vice Chairman of the board… “Are you guys able to advance me a soft loan of ₦300 Million. I will pay back within six months”. There was no hesitation in the answer . . . “Sure. When will you need it?” It did not surprise me; we had always run Platform Petroleum like a family and the compassionate requests of staff, directors and shareholders were always adequately attended to. The money was in my account in four days and subsequently I paid for the property. Of course, I paid it back within the promised time period.

We closed the transaction in November 2018 but because we could not disrupt the school calendar, we agreed to wait until July 3rd 2019 when the kids vacated for the summer holidays before taking possession. In the intervening period, we had concluded all the design work and processed the approvals for our proposed office building. Days after taking possession we moved in, demolished the existing buildings, and started the construction of our new office building.

In January 2019, I started the process of hiring the anchor staff for AA Holdings Limited. Working with a trusted HR Consultant, we went through a rigorous selection process to pick one out of four identified candidates for the position of Chief Investment Officer (CIO). We finally settled for a young, brilliant investment banker, Emeka Okolo, who assumed office on April 2nd 2019 in a rented office suite in Ikoyi. He quickly settled down to work, focusing on the following key assignments.

  • Supervised the construction, finishing, outfitting, and furnishing of the new office to top-notch standards. The office was finally ready at the end of November 2020, even though we moved in on September 1st, one month after my disengagement from Seplat.
  • Organised AAHoldings into a proper holding company with Professional Support Limited as a wholly owned subsidiary. All my shares in Seplat were transferred to Professional Support Limited while my shares in Platform Petroleum Limited were held by AAHoldings and Professional Support Limited. All my shares in listed securities on the Nigerian Stock Exchange were similarly transferred to AAHoldings. Two new subsidiaries, Professional Support Property Development Company Limited and Professional Support Farms Limited were created to warehouse our real estate and green house farming businesses respectively. A property which we owned, following our purchase of Nerine Properties Limited (part of Nerine Services Limited, a company ABC and I sold off due to pressures of RPT from Seplat) was transferred to Professional Support Property Development Limited.
  • Organised a beauty contest among four Communications Consultants for the design of our logo, letterheads, business cards and other stationery items. The chosen design from this exercise is what we use today.
  • Worked with Auditors and our retained external counsels to bring all statutory reports in respect of AAHoldings and all its subsidiaries to date. By the time I assumed duties on 1st September 2020 as Executive Chairman of AAHoldings, the audited annual report for all the companies for the year ended 31st December, 2019 (and all previous years as relevant) were ready and filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Similarly, tax returns had been filed with the FIRS for all the companies.

On September 1st 2020, one month into my retirement from Seplat, the AA Holdings office opened for business at 1C Oba Elegushi Road, Ikoyi. Apart from office support staff (security, maintenance, front desk, etc), there were four of us. . . . My executive assistant of eighteen years, the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Johnnie Eni, who was the GM Business Integrity in Seplat, the Chief Investment Officer and myself. On October 1st, a Finance Manager, Mrs. Judith Alex-Oni joined us. When we prepared our 2021 Work Program and budget, the key highlights, which represented our four areas of investment interest were . . . .

  • Agriculture:

We decided to acquire a small parcel of land, about 1,500 square meters in the Lekki/Ajah axis of Lagos for a pilot project on greenhouse farming. Working with Dizengoff (a notable agricultural equipment supplier) we set up a greenhouse farm to produce pepper and tomatoes. After ten months of experiment, six of which was spent harvesting and selling products, we had enough data to start the planning of a larger scale farm. We acquired four hectares of land from the Lagos State Agric Scheme in Epe where we are now planning a proper, commercial greenhouse farm for Pepper and Tomatoes. We also have eight hectares of land in Delta State where we will expand into once the one in Lagos proves as successful as we envisage.

  • Real Estate:

Our first real estate project was the development of a service outlet for two anchor tenants on a 2,900sq meter plot of land we already owned in Ikota, Lagos It is a well-crafted building on four floors with one wing housing a restaurant chain and the other housing the film house cinemas (Imax). The second project, still at pre-construction stage, is an iconic 44-Unit luxury apartments complex on Alexander Road, Ikoyi. It is a huge project, and we are still twicking the design to achieve commercial cost effectiveness. To hedge our currency risk, we have also started acquiring (one piece at a time) commercial, residential real estate in the USA.

  • Equity Investing:

We have rationalized our holdings of Nigerian listed equities to three Nigerian banks which, in our view, consistently deliver above 7.5% dividend yield. We will continue to build on this portfolio to a point where our dividend income can support our Naira-based businesses and overheads.

The three sectors above represent our future areas of diversification away from Oil and Gas. To date, our big play still remains the Oil and Gas Sector.

Excerpted from My Entrepreneurship Journey, by Austin Avuru. Published in Nigeria by RADI8 LIMITED, Lagos, 2022.



  1. Edmund says:

    Austin has always been a goal getter and an acestriker right from childhood . Whatever he lays his hands on turns into well refined gold. This GREEN HOUSE FARMING business will surely be his next ‘oil’. Do not forget he once told his secondary school physics teacher that he wants to be a business man. I believe he has safely landed his dream career using GEOLOGY which he studied in the university as special purpose vehicle. Austin is now a ‘certified’ business man.

    • Gbenga Ojo says:

      Excerpt is a testament to the fact that you can achieve your dreams with focus and proper planning.

      • Chester Odagwe says:

        “so much for the monster I have created in the name of corporate governance”. I can only imagine this.😆

        I have personally followed, admired and gotten inspirations from AA. Apart from being of the same tribe with Platform Petroleum major operations happening right in my community and few meters away from my family house, the vision of AA and his tracked progressions has always awed me. One of the most fulfilling moments for me in my budding days as a big transaction lawyer, was the day I sat directly opposite AA to negotiate an interest they (Seplat) wished to acquire in 2014 through one of their investee companies. Probably their biggest chase in 2013/14. Right before me, I saw passion, touched visions, and felt dreams needless to mention the positivities which engulfed the room. I have no doubt of the exploits awaiting AA Holdings and cheers to the successes ahead.

  2. Temitayo Adeleke-Adeyi says:

    This is truly inspiring, thank you for sharing Sir

  3. Famous Youbowei says:

    This piece is not just an article. It is an inspiration. If most of us could be this wise and take such step, financial freedom would have been a sure guarantee. Thank you for feeding and empowering us with your success formula. You will keep on rising.

  4. Eke says:

    I am not surprised sir, Your entrepreneurship story is systematic .The sky is the beginning.

    I wish you can be my mentor. I wish to start up something soon.
    Eke Chibuzor Emmanuel.

  5. Eke says:

    I am not surprised sir, Your entrepreneurship story is systematic .The sky is the beginning.

    I wish you can be my mentor. I wish to start up something soon.
    Eke Chibuzor Emmanuel.
    0813 689 1119
    Thank you.

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