Nigerian Oil Tycoon Overtakes Oprah As World’s Richest Black Woman

Nigerian Oil Tycoon Overtakes Oprah As World’s Richest Black Woman

Move over, Oprah. Yes, it’s true. Oprah Winfrey has been surpassed in the position as the world’s richest black woman. The title now belongs to Nigerian oil tycoon Folurunsho Alakija, 61. According to the magazine Ventures Africa, Alakija’s net worth is at least $3.2 billion—about $500 million more than Oprah’s $2.7 billion.

Alakija’s fortune was gained for the most part from her company Famfa Oil—which owns a 60 percent stake in OML 127, an offshore oil field that produces about 200,000 barrels of oil daily and is valued at about $6.44 billion. But her good fortune has a long and interesting history.

The married mother of four also owns about $100 million in real estate and a $46 million private jet. Alakija, now a grandmother, began her climb to the top in the mid-1970s as a secretary at International Merchant Bank of Nigeria, which is no longer in business. Later, she left the bank and moved to London to study fashion design. When she returned to Nigeria she started her own fashion line—Supreme Stitches—and in 1993 applied for an oil prospecting license, an expensive permit that allows oil exploration.

The Nigerian government granted Alakija’s request and assigned a 617,000-acre parcel of land to her for oil exploration. Although she knew nothing about the oil business, in September 1996 Alakija hired Star Water Petroleum Limited—a subsidiary of Texaco—to serve as her technical adviser. In 2000 the company determined her parcel of land contained more than one billion barrels of oil.

When the Nigerian government discovered her good fortune, it tried to take back half of the block it had sold to Alakija. Although it was successful and she lost control of all but 10 percent of her oil company, the Nigerian Supreme Court reversed the decision this year and Alakija reacquired all by 10 percent of her plot. Now that she is back in control of 60 percent of the oil company, her net worth has skyrocketed to a conservative estimate of $3.2 billion.

Samantha Lile


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