By Gbenga lawal
There is no contesting the fact that Mr. Kunle Soname is the most successful sports business entrepreneur in Africa.
For the founder of Bet9ja, Nigeria’s number one online bookmaker company, all his life endeavours have hovered around sports. While some believe that sports cannot be run successfully as a business venture here in Nigeria or in most African countries, Soname has shattered that theory as he has succeeded so excellently where many others failed.
The Ikenne, Ogun State-born Soname is the owner of a Nigerian professional football league club, Remo Stars FC and has acquired 70 percent stake of a second division Portuguese football club side called Clube Desportivo Feirens.
He started with sports marketing but made his money as a big-time online bookmaker. His Bet9ja brand has been a phenomenal success to the extent of picking the bill as principal sponsor of the recently concluded Big Brother Naija Season 4.
Now, Soname has shifted his gaze to the aviation sector as he is planning to bring his midas touch to that lucrative but highly delicate sector with the birth of ValueJet.
Spotlight learnt that he floated the airline in 2018 to provide premium and high quality flight services in Nigeria and Africa.
To the amiable businessman and socialite, anything worth doing at all, is what doing well. He is starting the full operation early next year but has started flying short haul routes between select Nigerian cities with some air travellers enjoying its premium Jet service with guaranteed competitive fares as well as offering an end-to-end customer experience.
It was learnt that his presence in the sector has started sending shivers down the spine of the already established carriers given his record as an achiever. He is said to be planning to become one of the biggest players in the sector within five years of operation.
Right now, he has started creating top-of-mind awareness for his brand. Just as he did with the launch of Bet9ja in 2003 with sponsorship of major events, Soname is kicking off the full commercial operations of ValueJet with the main sponsorship of the first 50km Remo ultra race holding in his homestead of Remo next week.
His ValueJet presently operates with two Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft that seat up to 90 passengers in economy. But he hopes to see his airline eventually fly long haul to Europe and North America sooner.
As a step towards that, it was learnt that he has been shuttling overseas to perfect the deal with major aviation suppliers on the acquisition of more aircraft to be used for the seamless operations of the airline.
Meanwhile as he focused on the successful takeoff of his airline project, sources said Soname has been paying less attention to happenings at Bet9ja, his conglomerate’s cash cow.
This, it was gathered, has led to some untoward activities by some of his top executives. To stem this, the man —who recently threw a lavish 90th birthday bash for his mum, Mrs Rachael Abisola Soname, with King Sunny Ade on the bandstand at Ikenne— is said to have poached a top vibrant, dynamic manager from a major oil company to run his gaming business.
And since his resumption at the gaming company’s headquarters, the dude has been cleaning the Augean stable and working to make Bet9ja retain its clear leadership spot.