In 2003, the company split its operations: Lawal’s firm is an American company that manages a range of international oil exploration and production ventures, while other members of his family control a separate incorporated offshore entity in which Lawal doesn’t hold any equity interest.
Today, analysts are waxing positive on CAMAC, a hot company in an even hotter industry. “Getting into the oil business, at least in the production and exploration sectors that CAMAC has managed to work its way into, requires a huge amount of capitalization, and they’ve done a good job at raising and growing that capital,” says Ritterbusch. “It looks like a good, solid, growing company. It’s very impressive.”
Much of CAMAC’s success would not be possible if not for Lawal’s political acumen. Securing drilling rights requires an intimate knowledge of the local political and regulatory landscape and the ability to successfully maneuver through it, avoiding the pitfalls. Knowing the decision makers is critical to his business success. “He’s developed relationships not only in this country but in other parts of the world,” says Lee P. Brown, the former mayor of Houston who serves on CAMAC’s board of directors. “He’s someone who can drive up to the president of Nigeria’s gate, they look in the back to see who he is, and the gates open up like he’s at home. We went with him to Namibia, and he calls the president and the prime minister and they all rearrange their schedules to meet with him. You get an audience with the president because of him.”
Over the years, Lawal has earned a slew of high-level appointments. In June 1999, he was appointed by the city of Houston to serve as a commissioner on the Port of Houston Authority Board, helping manage the country’s largest foreign tonnage seaport and the sixth largest port in the world. In that role, he helped establish the port’s Small Business Development Program to award contracts to Houston-area businesses. In September 2001, Lawal was appointed by Brown to serve on the board of directors for the Houston Airport System Development Corp., where he helps establish partnerships with airport systems throughout the world.
THE PUSH FOR ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
While oil may be one of Lawal’s passions, it’s not the only one. He was always interested in finance and in his younger days considered acquiring a thrift institution. He got the opportunity in July 2005, when CAMAC acquired a controlling interest in Unity National Bank, the only black-owned federally chartered bank in Texas. Financial terms of the deal, which closed early this year, weren’t disclosed. Lawal intends to use the bank, which has two locations in Texas and $55.77 million in total assets, as an instrument of economic development for African Americans.
Lawal, who serves as Unity’s vice chairman, plans to develop a financial services firm that can provide loans to black entrepreneurs as well as offer a bevy of financial products such as insurance, asset management, investment advisory services, and securities brokerage. “It wasn’t really for profit, because