7th September, 2016
Several Nigerians and the business world have mourned the demise of Olorogun Michael Ibru who died on Tuesday at the age of 85 after battling with illness for a long time.
The Ibru family said he died in a US hospital in the early hours of Tuesday. His death came about five weeks after Felix, his brother, was buried.
Born in 1930, Ibru was a prominent Nigerian businessman from Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. He was the head of the Ibru Organization, one of the largest conglomerates in Nigeria. As a traditional chieftain of his homeland, Ibru bored the tribal honorific Olorogun and often used it as a pre-nominal style. This title was also borne by many of the members of his large family in the same way.
Ibru was born to the family of Peter Ibru, a missionary worker, who also worked at the Igbobi Orthapaedic Hospital, Lagos. After secondary school, he joined the United African Company, as a management trainee. In 1956, a few years after joining U.A.C, he dropped out of the company and started a partnership, which he called Laibru.
The corporate entity was in partnership with an expatriate, Jimmy Large. After engaging in general trading with some success, in 1957, Michael Ibru discovered that the frozen fish market was a fertile market with the potential to deliver returns above the market rate. However, it was a tough market to penetrate, at the time, many expatriate firms and Nigerian traders were lacking and some were not interested in the market.
But he felt he could put extra effort communicating with general traders, who played key roles in products acceptance. To trade in seafood, he established an importing company, he also rented and built cold storage facilities across the country. By the mid-1960s trading fish had become the traditional money maker for the Ibru organization.
Though he had other profitable interests such as transportation and construction, fish trading helped him secure financing and other forms of capital to engage in large scale trading. He established a partnership with a Taiwanese company, Osadjere Fishing Company, which provided Trawlers and other accessories for trading.
By the end of the 1960s, he branched out fully into other areas of the economy. Like a lot of his contemporaries, he established a transportation company, called Rutam. He also invested in palm oil production. Over the years, the Ibru Organization has expanded into other areas such as tourism, brewery, timber and poultry.
He was known as an entrepreneurial figure who created one of the largest modern Nigerian owned groups with other figures such as the low key Bode Akindele.
Michael Ibru attended Igbobi College, and acquired a school certificate in 1951.
Ibru has five wives and seventeen children, the most prominent being Olorogun Oskar Ibru (who heads Ibafon Ports) and Oboden Ibru (who is a key player in Oceanic bank International PLC).
He also tried his hands in politics, in 1983, he was a gubernatorial candidate but lost to Samuel Ogbemudia. He was also a member of the Liberal Convention and the New Movement, which metamorphosed to become NRC.