In early July, he was there live and in person in Paris, France to join his fellow “compatriots” and billionaires as guests of French President, Emmanuel Macron. Of course, that’s his new home since he chose to leave Nigeria in 2015. Welcome to the new world of Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent, Gilbert Ramez Chagoury. At a time in Nigeria’s recent history, Chagoury, as a business magnate, was an all-powerful figure. His phenomenal influence started during the late Sani Abacha era but it peaked during the Goodluck Jonathan era. During that time, Chagoury —alongside his co-billionaire businessman brother, Ronald— were effervescent. They were not only close to the Abacha and Jonathan families, but also chummy with many other socialites, celebrities and power brokers. That was the situation until power changed hands in Nigeria in 2015. But with the coming to power of President Muhammadu Buhari, coupled with his mention in the then email scandal involving former United States first lady and Secretary Hillary Clinton, among other issues in the US, Chagoury mellowed for some time before he finally left Nigeria. Despite wriggling himself out of those crises, various reasons —plausible and implausible— have been adduced for his AWOL in Nigeria’s business and social spheres.
A source told Spotlight that in the run up to the 2015 Presidential elections, Chagoury allegedly splashed out a huge sum of money on PR services in the US for the benefit of the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against the person of his rival. But the turnout of the result of that election shook Chagoury who couldn’t predict what would become of him with the new sheriff in town and then opted to stay away to avoid having problems with the new administration. The billionaire was said to have made the US his initial new abode immediately he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the FBI over the Clinton email saga while his immediate younger brother, Ronald held forte in Nigeria. The billionaire was then shuttling London, Beirut and Dubai to attend to business concerns personally until recently when he finally settled for Paris as his new base where he was plucked to be part of Macron’s France-Nigeria Business Council headed by Nigerian billionaire, Abdulsamad Rabiu.
Gilbert and his brother, Ronald, who have built a reputation as giants of global philanthropy, are among Africa’s richest men with generous donations to charitable projects around the world. The brothers returned briefly to the spotlight in April 2020 when they significantly boosted Nigeria’s fight against the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic with the donation of N1 billion to Lagos State government. Gilbert —the older of the duo— has always maintained that the vision for his life was greater than he could imagine and considered it a duty to give back.
Sources said with nothing to be afraid of, however, Gilbert has chosen to stay away leaving his trusted brother to oversee all the multi-billion dollar investments and projects scattered across Nigeria. Born in Lagos, Nigeria by immigrant parents in the 1930s, Gilbert —he’s all-in-all a Nigerian albeit of Lebanese blood— and Ronald owned a number of great investments in Nigeria. Operating under the Chagoury Group —an industrial conglomerate founded in 1971 with interests in almost every viable sector in Nigeria. The group’s net worth, according to Forbes, is about $4.2 billion. The Chagoury brothers own the prestigious Eko Hotel & Suites, HITECH Construction Company and ITB Construction Limited. They are also behind the over $6 billion Eko Atlantic project, which is an entirely reclaimed coastal city built also in the upmarket Victoria Island area of Lagos and is reserved exclusively for the high net worth individuals and corporate entities including some embassies. Its grand cheerleaders boast that on completion, the new Eko Atlantic would match that of New York’s Manhattan Island.