On October 24, Bayo Ogunlesi spoke to students from Harvard College, Harvard Business School, and M.I.T on behalf of the African American Student Union, Africa Business Club, and Finance Club. Mr. Ogunlesi (MBA ’78, HLS ’79) has been the Head of Investment Banking at Credit Suisse First Boston since February of this year and is also a member of the firm’s Executive Board and Operating Committee. Fortune magazine recently named him as the seventh most powerful black executive in America.
Nigerian-born Ogunlesi graduated from Oxford University with first class honors. When he matriculated at the Law School, the student body’s international composition included only him, an Iranian, and a Saudi Arabian. His hypothesis is that Harvard was targeting non-Americans from oil-rich countries -perhaps with hopes of future gifts. While Ogunlesi has not returned to Nigeria, he has become amazingly successful in business. He spoke of his pursuit of a business degree as something unplanned and undertaken to help him “get over his fear of numbers.” In looking back on the law and business school experiences, Ogunlesi recounts taking a “decidedly light load” at HBS. Meanwhile, he was an Editor of the Law Review at the Law School, from where he graduated magna cum laude.
Upon graduation, Ogunlesi was a clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He subsequently joined the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore as an attorney in the corporate practice group. His legal career was short-lived. Ogunlesi recounted asking to take a brief leave of absence from Cravath to help First Boston with a project. He subsequently joined the firm as an associate.
Since joining First Boston in 1983, Mr. Ogunlesi has advised clients on strategic transactions and financings in a broad range of industries, including oil and natural gas, petrochemicals, power generation, mining, natural resources and infrastructure. He work has taken place in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Ogunlesi has also been a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School of Organization and Management, where he taught a course on transnational investment projects in emerging countries. Nineteen years later, Ogunlesi began to lead Credit Suisse First Boston through this most challenging investment banking environment.
Mr. Ogunlesi’s remarks were both witty and frank. When he learned that his speech was taking place the same time that second year students were trying to apply for ‘open’ interview slots, he remarked, “so I can assume that all of you have jobs?” He encouraged students not to take business school too seriously and to remember the importance of one’s commitments outside of work when considering career decisions.
Students praised Ogunlesi’s candid comments in the days following the presentation. We hope that he’ll return to HBS in the near future.
Debbie McCoy (OC) is the Chairperson of the African American Student Union Distinguished Speakers Series