BY ALFRED AGUDIEBUBE

Billionaire ex-military officer, politician, philanthropist and elder statesman, General T.Y. Danjuma, has acquired a N1.2 billion 300-year-old British hotel, The Kings Arms Hotel.

Details reported by Bloomberg said the lodge, which is next to London’s Hampton Court Palace, was once the home of Henry VIII.

The 300 years old hotel

The property is poised to open soon after refurbishment, with rooms costing about 250 pounds ($318) a night where guests can dine on traditional fare in the six restaurants, a reference to the late monarch’s many wives, or grab a pint on the terrace.

Redevelopment work was expected to end in March, filings show, but the property’s age and protected status, however, resulted in higher costs and delays.

Danjuma is the founder of TY Danjuma Foundation, an independent private Nigerian philanthropic organisation committed to improving the quality of life for disadvantaged Nigerians.

The billionaire is a former Chief of Army Staff and ex-Defence Minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo military and civilian administrations.

Reporting further on the new acquisition, Bloomberg said: “In this most English of settings, it’s fitting the owner is a retired military man still referred to as “General.” 

“But for Theophilus Danjuma, this is just one investment in a network of assets that span at least three continents.”

Danjuma, 80, is worth $1.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with his family office managing a portion of that wealth, often through low-key holdings such as the 14-room hotel.


Speaking on the family’s investment choices, the billionaire’s second daughter, Hannatu Gentles, said: “We never tend to look at trophy assets. We’re not going to head to Mayfair to buy a 15 million-pound apartment primarily because we are a yield business.”

Gentles also serves as the chief operating officer of the ex-General’s London-based family office.

While Mayfair is the hub of London’s family offices, the Danjumas chose the city’s southwest suburbs to set up their investment firm a decade ago. 

They’ve since invested in property in that area, including the 2.5 million-pound purchase in 2010 of the building where their office is now based, according to filings.

Beyond the U.K., they own real estate in California and have bought and sold property in Singapore. 

Their family office also oversees private equity investments, trust funds and a venture capital arm that backs family-run art and film companies. The Danjumas own more than 30 properties worldwide, filings show.

“We invest in real estate in other jurisdictions, but in the U.K., we always thought let’s stick to areas that we know,” Gentles said.

“This is the first, and will possibly be the last, listed building we’ve worked on,” Gentles said. 

“It’s taken longer than we wanted, but our name is attached to the building and we want to be proud of our work. It’s been a hard slog.”

Her father bought a residence in Singapore years ago, “and it made sense then to buy some more,” she said, adding they’ve since sold the properties because of tax law changes.

In addition to the Kings Arms Hotel, the Danjumas have developed residential properties this year in Esher and Wimbledon. They also own a boutique hotel in Lagos.

Nigeria’s leaders have often faced public ire, yet Danjuma was able to avoid much of that wrath because of his role shepherding the nation toward democracy, according to Pallavi Roy, a lecturer at London’s School of Oriental & African Studies.

Danjuma also pledged to give away $100 million through his foundation, with recent donations aimed at improving vision care, literacy rates and rural farming.

“It might seem contradictory given the extent of his wealth, but he is quite well respected and almost looked upon as an elder in political circles,” said Roy, co-research director of the SOAS-led Anti-Corruption Evidence initiative.

“The military held him in such high regard that he was able to help manage Nigeria’s transition from military rule to democracy.”

According to Bloomberg, in 2006, Danjuma’s South Atlantic Petroleum Limited sold almost half its contractor rights for a section off Nigeria’s coast to a state-backed Chinese firm for $1.8 billion.

He was awarded the block in 1998 by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, making him one of a handful of Nigerians that made extraordinarily wealthy from the country’s energy reserves.

He left the military in 1979 and founded his oil firm and a shipping company, NAL-Comet, which now has more than 2,000 employees in Nigeria.

FROM THE TOWER OF TRUTH

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