• Sports - Football - Gossips
  • Updated: March 30, 2023

Shola Akinlade: From Paystack CEO To Majority Shareholder Of Football Club In Europe

Shola Akinlade: From Paystack CEO To Majority Shareholder Of

When news broke that Shola Akinlade, Co-founder and CEO of Paystack, has purchased Danish second-division club Aarhus Fremad, everyone was taken by surprise. 

No one had envisaged that a software engineer and entrepreneur from Nigeria would attract the kind of global attention that the Qataris and Saudis often get whenever they complete the takeover of a football club in Europe in recent times.

But following the acquisition of a 55 per cent stake in Aarhus Fremad to become a majority owner, the Nigerian IT Billionaire is now the new sheriff in town.

He reportedly purchased the Danish football club with the humongous proceeds amassed over the years from his Fintech company and intends to achieve an enviable accomplishment with the entrepreneurial drive that he used to build Paystack.

Shola Akinlade

It is common knowledge that Akinade's journey to stardom began in 2015 when he teamed up with fellow Babcock University alumnus and friend Ezra Olubi to create Paystack, a payment gateway which people can use to make payments on the internet.

The platform, in its infantile stage, served Nigerian businesses and processed all online payments in Nigeria before it transcended the shores of the country to other emerging markets in Africa after gaining popularity.

Paystack eventually attained global success when Stripe (an American financial services and software payment giant) merged with Paystack in a deal worth over $200 million (N74 billion).

The acquisition of Paystack as part of Stripe’s international expansion plans facilitated a much better career growth for Akinlade who was born and raised in the city of Lagos in Nigeria but currently lives in North Carolina, USA.

"He has created a company that has made it possible for small African businessmen to receive money from credit cards," said Lars Kruse, Director of Aarhus Fremad, about the wealth of the 37-year-old Nigerian.

"And he has done that so well that he has been bought by Stripe, which is a huge American company that collaborates with VISA, among other things. 

"And if he is good enough for them, then he is probably also good enough for Aarhus Fremad." 

Foray Into Football

Shola Akinlade's foray into football officially began with the creation of Sporting Lagos, a football club that plays in the second-best Nigerian league.

The co-founder and CEO of Paystack launched the club last year with a vision to build "something that lasts generations and creates an opportunity for millions."

At the launch of the club in 2022, Shola said: "Football has always been a space that makes me proud to be part of this country and continent. 

"That’s likely because football is more than entertainment; it’s identity, it’s opportunity. 

"Digging deeper into the sport has been a revelation. 

"There’s an entire ecosystem of time, activity, and talent that goes into those electrifying 90 minutes."

Driven by the vision to incubate the next generation of football talent, he extended his tentacles to the Danish football league to bail out Aarhus Fremad who lost $191.6 million and has been running on a deficit in the last two years.

Akinlade purchased the club, which is currently at the top of the Danish 2nd Division in the third tier of the Danish football league system, with the hope of upgrading it.

His decision to buy a huge stake in the club was informed by the advice he received from a Danish mutual acquaintance who he told he was looking for a club to invest in.

"The truth is that it was Shola Akinlade who found Aarhus Fremad," Kruse vividly recollected.

"A close acquaintance of the club, for whom I have great respect, referred him to us and spoke well of him.

"I generally attach great importance to standing up for people. I use that a lot. 

"I've checked with people who know about Shola's industry and heard about him.

"When we played in Skive last Friday, Shola gave a presentation at Harvard Business School. 

"And if that kind of capacity can use him, so can we."

Future Expectations For Aarhus Fremad

With the takeover of Aarhus Fremad, there are a lot of expectations to be met.

For the Danish club, saving the club from drowning in a financial mess and giving Riisvangen Stadium a facelift is on the top drawer, rather than the hunt for the AGF or the Super League.

"It is no secret that it has probably cost a little of my otherwise positive energy that I have had to transfer this money on an ongoing basis to keep the club going. 

"It is one of the worst things you can experience in a company when liquidity is at the limit. 

"It's terrible. And I am glad that for a while it is not an issue.

"Now we have to make the funds that have come in a stretch as far as possible," said the director of Aarhus Fremad.

He continued: "And then we must have looked at Riisvangen. It's really tickled me to get started on it.

"Can we create a campus that means we have more capacity? 

"Can we make one more artificial turf, can we get more life up here? 

"Those things have been in the drawer for a long time, and now we have to try to see if it is something we can get started on."

Incubating Talented Nigerians In Europe

Of all the things Shola intends to achieve with Aarhus Fremad, using football to better the lives of promising young footballers in Nigeria is part of his ambition.

In acquiring the Danish football club, the astute Paystack CEO reached an agreement with Aarhus Fremad to create European exposure for Sporting Lagos players via a membership programme and joining their academy.

This implies that exceptional Sporting Lagos players will have the opportunity to play in Europe and build a name for themselves.

Shedding light on the agreement between Aarhus Fremad and Sporting Lagos, Lars Kruse said: "He sees football a bit like we do at Fremad, as a platform for experiences where you can do something for the society around us.

"He would like to have a sister club in Europe so that his players down there have an opportunity to come to Europe in time. 

"But it will not be like we have seen with other multi-club ownerships, where a lot of players come at once. 

"It will be business as usual in Fremad, where the players who may come up to us at some point are 14-15 years old today.

"Furthermore, the agreement is that we, from Fremad's side, will help Sporting Lagos to build up some sporting principles and set up an academy."

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