Tony Boulos’ father, Anthony Gabriel (AG) Boulos, was a Lebanese goldsmith who arrived Nigeria in 1936. By the time Tony joined his father, as a 16-year-old in 1943, AG Boulos Jewellers had earned a name for itself amongst Lagos’ luxury-goods buying elite.
A decade after arriving in Nigeria, Tony stepped out on his own, alongside his younger brother, Gabriel, to set up Boulos Enterprises Limited (today a conglomerate: Boulos Group of Companies) – a business partnership that has flourished for almost sixty years.
It would be impossible to speak of Boulos’ life without acknowledging his gift for making and keeping friends. From the early days in Nigeria, spent working with his hands, crafting jewellery, Boulos moved on to building personal and business relationships that would make a mark on Nigeria’s business landscape.
In a tribute, Samuel Ogundare, Chairman of Boulos Enterprises, described Mr. Akintola Williams, CFR, CBE – long-time Boulos friend and shareholder in the Boulos business – as Boulos’ “chief mourner”; an indication of the depth of the friendship between two men separated (in age) by almost a decade.
During the 1960s Boulos Enterprises was the sole importer of Suzuki motorcycles into Nigeria. In 1969, the company built Nigeria’s first motorcycle assembly factory. Here was a family business playing in a terrain that only multinational conglomerates typically dabbled into – their early competitors would be Leventis (Honda motorcycles) and John Holt (Yamaha motorcycles).
A decade later, Boulos was manufacturing motorcycles in Ogba, Lagos. In the 1980s, Tony took the business into waste paper recycling, setting up Bel Papyrus Limited, the first of its kind in Lagos.
Tony Boulos loved Nigeria. He lived most of his life in Lagos, and learnt to speak Yoruba fluently. His business premises in Ogba and Oregun have since long been fixtures on the Lagos industrial landscape. In 1952, he married Violette Fawaz at Our Saviour’s Church (then St. Saviour’s Colonial Church), Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
He was also an avid traveller, visiting several countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. One can only imagine how many trips he made between Nigeria and Lebanon (in which he also maintained substantial business investments), in his lifetime.
Tributes to his life allude to his legendary philanthropic disposition. Mr. Akintola Williams describes Boulos as “ever ready to support any worthwhile humanitarian project established in his country of adoption.” In honour of his father, Boulos donated a library to the University of Lagos.
His friendship with Mr. Williams got him involved with the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON), founded by Mr. Williams in 1984.
In his final months, Boulos made a substantial donation to the African Cancer Centre, a project envisioned to be “the first comprehensive cancer centre in sub-Saharan black Africa dedicated to state-of-the-art cancer care and treatment, prevention and early detection, education and training.”
Tony Boulos, pioneering businessman, philanthropist and lifelong Nigeriaphile is survived by Violette, his wife of fifty-eight years, their four daughters, and grandchildren. He was buried in Tripoli on 9 November.
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