Ready to Rumble

30 years of the BE 100s

revenues of $979.5 million, becoming the nation’s largest black-owned company. CAMAC (which stands for Cameroon-American) is a hair away from being inducted into the billion dollar club, a feat that has not been accomplished by a black-owned company since TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc., the New York City-based operator of offshore grocery stores and food manufacturers, achieved that milestone on the 1998 BE 100s (see “Ready To Rumble,” this issue).

Kase L. Lawal, the Nigerian-born CEO and president of CAMAC, started the company 16 years ago as an international trade operation. Over the years, Lawal retooled the enterprise to focus on the lucrative oil and gas industry. Today, through its two principal subsidiaries, Allied Energy and Oceanic Consultants, CAMAC owns stakes in inland and offshore oil and gas producing properties as well as interests in businesses that conduct drilling operations, oil transportation, technical advisory services, and construction for the oil industry in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. CAMAC also owns an energy trading company whose business was unaffected by the recent Enron scandal, says Lawal. “We used to produce oil and rely on someone to sell it,” says Lawal, who owns 80% of CAMAC. “We decided that we could get contracts, and assemble a risk management team that could deal with the volatility of selling oil and gas.”

As a result, revenue growth has been impressive. With more than 1,000 employees, the company posted revenues of $114.26 million in 1999, $571.54 in 2000, and almost a billion dollars for 2001. Lawal projects revenues easily exceeding the billion dollar mark in 2002.”Our business is an integrated business in terms of providing upstream and downstream services,” says Lawal. Upstream services include the exploration and production of oil and gas while downstream includes the trading and refining of the products. The CEO points out that the company had been focused on the upstream until about five years ago when it decided to branch out. “The natural growth is always to get to downstream to complement the upstream, that’s the logical step. That’s where our growth has come from the past four years.”

The next big project: the $1.3 billion development of a refinery complex in South Africa, involving the acquisition and relocation of equipment from the Blue Island Refinery in Illinois. After the equipment is reassembled in South Africa, the new facility will employ more than 2,000 workers. “I want to encourage more blacks to get involved in the oil industry as entrepreneurs,” he says. “Through CAMAC, I want to be one of the architects of black empowerment globally.”

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