Ecobank, a West African financial services group, is pursuing the acquisition of shares recently obtained by Nigerian tycoon Oba Otudeko in FBN Holdings due to his indebtedness to the bank.
Otudeko and his affiliated companies owe Ecobank over NGN13.5 billion ($17.1 million).
In 2017, Ecobank Nigeria Limited filed several lawsuits against Otudeko and his companies, including Honeywell Group Limited, Siloam Global Services Limited, Anchorage Leisures Limited, and Honeywell Flour Mills, at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
These legal actions aimed to recover the companies’ debts to the bank. Otudeko had personally guaranteed the loans, resulting in the companies’ indebtedness.
Despite Otudeko and his companies disputing their debts, the Supreme Court affirmed their indebtedness in January of this year. The court’s judgment ordered them to repay all outstanding debtsto the bank, along with interest.
A letter from Ecobank’s legal representative to the CEO of FBN Holdings, seen by Billionaires.Africa, accuses Oba Otudeko of intentionally diverting his and his debtor companies’ assets to evade debt payment, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s directive.
In the letter, Kunle Ogunba and Associates, Ecobank’s counsel, claim that instead of repaying the debts, Otudeko took actions to divert his assets and funds through a newly created special purpose vehicle named Barbican Capital Limited.
Following the Supreme Court judgment, Otudeko used this vehicle to purchase 4,770,269,843 shares of FBN Holdings from various institutional shareholders.
The shares were subsequently transferred to at least ten different proxy accounts.
Ecobank’s lawyers have urged FBN Holdings to reject acknowledging the shares as belonging to Otudeko, as doing so would violate the Supreme Court’s judgment.
Sources within FBN Holdings have informed Billionaires.Africa that Ecobank is attempting to seize the disputed shares.
Previously the chairman and leading shareholder of FBN Holdings, Otudeko was removed from his positions by the central bank in April 2021 due to significant corporate governance breaches and insider dealings.
Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola became the largest shareholder in the company that same year, with substantial influence on FBN Holdings’ board.
However, recent reports suggest that Otudeko has once again become the largest shareholder in the bank, setting the stage for a potential battle for control among major shareholders of Nigeria’s oldest bank.
Following Otudeko’s recent acquisition of FBN shares, estimated to represent a 13-percent stake, he now holds the top shareholder position in the financial services group.
Major shareholders, including Otedola, Mike Adenuga, Oye Hassan-Odukale, and the family of the late tycoon Alao Arisekola, reportedly convened to discuss how to respond to Otudeko’s emergence as the bank’s primary equity holder.
These shareholders are exploring options to swiftly resolve the issues stemming from the share acquisitions and Otudeko’s bid to regain control, potentially securing his representation on FBN Holding’s board.
The current board was appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, and concerned shareholders are determined to regain control of the bank.
They seek to address these matters at their meeting, as they remain wary of the repercussions of Otudeko’s return to any capacity of control following his past disagreements with the central bank two years ago.