Group CEO for CDH Financial Holdings, Emmanuel K. Adu-Sarkodee walked away with the “Special Award for Excellence in Corporate Turnaround and Crisis Management” at the recent 40th Anniversary Presidential Ball of the Institute of Public Relations, Ghana.
The citation that came with the award described him as “an outstanding achiever and a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur and business executive”, who has since 2004, quietly pulled off a number of incredible corporate turnarounds, and led successful crisis management programmes in Ghana.
Adu-Sarkodee first caught the attention of the IPR in 2004, when finance industry regulator, Bank of Ghana placed a moratorium (suspension) on the operations of CDH.
The IPR was particularly impressed with how he effectively managed the company’s crises, engaged strategic stakeholders and got back the CDH license to resume operations within just one year of taking over the distressed company.
The young entrepreneur remembers Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, who was then Deputy Governor of the BOG, for being reasonable and accepting to lift the moratorium with conditions; and that freed some money for CDH to pay off some of its debts at the time.
From then on, Adu-Sarkodee and his small team worked to turn CDH around from what he described as a ‘collapsed company’ into a profitable one, and also acquired a number of equally distressed companies and turned them into profitable entities.
Some of these companies included the defunct Benefits Insurance, which CDH acquired in 2006, turned it around, separated it into two companies and sold them for profit. Today that company operates as Regency Alliance, and Capital Express.
Adu-Sarkodee also stepped up to the plate when Ivory Finance found itself in similar turbulence in 2007, and he led the effort to successfully return it from intensive care to the path of prosperity.
He was also credited with turning around the fortunes of Phoenix Insurance in 2008, through his expert management skills, which led to the birthing of two companies: Phoenix Life Assurance, and Phoenix Insurance, both currently highly placed members of the Ghana Club 100.
“We actually got a call from the then Chairman of the National Insurance Commission to come rescue Phoenix because at the time we had proved that we had what it takes to turn distressed companies around,” he said with smiles.
Adu-Sarkodee did not stop in Ghana; he went all the way to Liberia, on the invitation of the then Commissioner of Insurance of that country, and saved Homeland Insurance in Liberia from losing its license. He is now the Chairman of that company too.
But some very dark days preceded the present day success story of CDH. And that is what underpins Adu-Sarkodee’s significance in the CDH story.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, the BOG had allowed banks to trade among themselves as part of Ghana’s structural adjustment program, and so the monopoly discount house operations of CDH Discount became virtually irrelevant. This is where the problems of CDH started from.
CDH had then given loans to the tune of over $30million to some state institutions, comprising of $17 million to Ghana Airways, $12million to GNPC (Ghana National Petroleum Corporation) and about $3million to GNPA (Ghana National Petroleum Authority).
While it was yet struggling to recollect those loans, a new government came to power in 2000 and liquated Ghana Airways, and refused to pay the $17 million debt owed to CDH, and also refused to pay the other debts of GNPA and GNPC.
Young Adu-Sarkodee, who was then only about 35 years old, and the Business Development Manager of CDH Insurance, rose to the task, when the top guys at the company threw their hands in despair.
“I was just a junior manager in the company then, but at one of our Emergency General Meetings, I asked the board to give me a chance to try and turn things around and they gladly raised my position straight to Chairman of the company,” he said.
He inherited CDH when it was in the red, buried in millions of dollars of debt, deserted by shareholders and top managers, and under a BOG moratorium, with 60 workers to be paid monthly salaries.
According to him, he first had to lay off 56 workers and kept only four, whom he paid from his own pocket, while he earned no monthly salary. Meanwhile, moneys owed to shareholders, creditors (banks) and outstanding benefits of the 56 workers laid off were left to be paid.
The story of CDH from then on had included borrowing and reinvesting some more moneys, fighting a myriad of legal battles, and doing whatever it took to stand and grow, and actually lift other companies from gloom to glory.
It was through some of those legal battles and skillful negotiations Adu-Sarkodee managed to get government to pay US$2 million cash and 20% shares in Novotel as compensation to CDH for the US$17million it lost to Ghana Airways. A third of the GNPC debts, and part of the GNPA debt was also paid. But there is more to be retrieved from GNPA.
He also convinced his creditors, the banks, to accept only 50% of the moneys CDH owed them, and they graciously obliged, so he used the moneys recollected from government to pay them off and some of it to finish paying off the 56 he laid off.
Today, CDH Group has three successful companies, three other associate companies, still owns 20% shares in Accra City Hotels (Novotel), and some shares in UT Life (formerly CDH Life). It has also paid off all of its debts but for just about a million Ghana cedis left to be paid to SIC, which Adu-Sarkodee said they will pay by the close of this year.
In terms of the numbers, CDH Asset Management has moved from a debt position to total asset of GHC123.6million as at December 2012; and that included some GHC110.3 million funds it is managing. Ivory Finance has also moved from the red to total assets of GHC85 million.
Indeed, some individuals and companies who took their money out from CDH have brought back their moneys and Adu-Sarkodee and his team are actually giving them good returns on their moneys.
CDH now stands tall as a 25-year-old diversified financial services group, with wide-ranging interests in commodities trading, investments and lending, stock brokerage, asset and fund management, general and life insurance, and the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Emmanuel Adu-Sarkodee is now not only the Group CEO of CDH Financial Holdings Ltd, but also the CEO of Ivory Finance Company Limited, a member of the CDH Group.
He currently serves on the boards of Phoenix Life Assurance Company Ltd, Accra City Hotel (NOVOTEL), CDH Asset Management Ltd, CDH Securities Ltd, CDH Commodities Ltd, Phoenix Insurance Company Ltd and Ghana Catfish Ltd.
Even though CDH itself is not listed on Ghana Club 100, three companies Adu-Sarkodee revived and managed, are currently listed on it. Phoenix Insurance is ranked number 22, Phoenix Life Assurance is ranked number 73 and Nsia Ghana Insurance, which was once CDH Insurance, is number 66.
Obviously, Emmanuel Adu-Sarkodee has proved beyond every reasonable doubt, that he and his team at CDH have the ‘Midas touch’ when it comes to dead things needing new life.
The young entrepreneur said his example is testimony to the fact that there is something good in the Ghanaian youth and when given the chance they can do big things and help transform the economy.
He was quick to mention though, that even though the buck always stopped with him, he could not have done without the help of his Accountant, Martin Asamoah, and Economist Desmond Nartey, who he poached from SIC.
Adu-Sarkodee is also the architect of the National Buffer Stock Company Limited, a project he led from conceptualization to implementation; from thought to finish. This is now a thriving company, serving to safeguard the food security of Ghana.
Adu-Sarkodee told Adom Business he had to make separate presentations to the then President John Evans Ata Mills, Vice President (now President) John Mahama and the then Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor on the project before funds was released to start it.
“I am happy they all bought into my idea and today it is helping in the area of food security in Ghana. Currently we are implementing only about 10% of the whole project but I believe over time we will find money and implement it fully so Ghana can reap the full benefits of it,” he said.
Adu-Sarkodee is a product of the University of Ghana, with an Executive MBA in Entrepreneurial Management. He also holds an Honours degree in Sociology with Political Science from the same university, and has undertaken short courses in Finance and Administration. He is currently finalizing his studies at the GIMPA Law School (Ghana), for the award of an LLB degree.
Obviously, he is fully a made-in-Ghana product in terms of education, and he says of himself, “I am proud to be Ghanaian”.