Los Angeles exotic-car dealer Obi Okeke was sound asleep when his phone rang once at 3 a.m. last year.It was Floyd Mayweather.The undefeated welterweight champ had a mission for his trusted dealer: Have a Bugatti Verdon sitting in the driveway of his Las Vegas mansion in 12 hours. It was time for Dr. Bugatti, as Okeke is sometimes called, to perform a miracle.
So Okeke jumped in the shower and headed to Fusion Luxury Motors, the Chatsworth, Calif., dealership he opened in 2012 and co-owns. He checked his notes, hopped on a plane, secured the car and drove it to Mayweather himself. And he did it in 11 hours. That’s life when you’re dealing with the spontaneous Mayweather, who, according to reports, raked in as much as $180 million this last Saturday when he faced off with fellow superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Okeke said there’s no room for mediocrity when dealing with Mayweather. The polarizing boxer has high expectations for himself, Okeke said, and therefore does for everyone around him.
Okeke has sold 39 cars to Mayweather, including a $3.2 million Ferarri Enzo and three Bugatti Veyrons that are worth $6.2 million combined. In a career spanning nearly 30 years, Okeke has sold cars to the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jessica Simpson, Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Tucker and more.
He started his career as a Chevrolet dealer in 1987 and eventually moved on to manage stores for Mercedes- Benz, Lexus, BMW, Ferrari and Maserati before he started his own.
Okeke, 53, spoke with Automotive News about his life and Mayweather adventures.
Q: Were you born in the U.S.?
A: I was not. My father is from Nigeria; my mother is from Ohio. I was born in Nigeria. My parents have been married for 57 years. When I was a kid, Nigeria had a civil war, so we escaped from Nigeria as refugees, just my mom and the kids. Then we went back to Nigeria. My parents weren’t crazy about the school system. My mom’s best friend was in charge of Swissair for western Africa, so they shipped me off to Switzerland.
When did you first meet Floyd?
Back in 2008, 2009. I was general manager of a Ferrari dealership. A business associate brought him to the Ferrari dealership. That was the first time I met Floyd, and then I transacted on two Ferraris with him.
How has your approach to the business changed over the years from working at a Chevy dealership to now?
My parents sent me to school in Switzerland as a young child, so I’ve always been very close to the European cars. And that’s why I was with Volkswagen. I tried to get a job at BMW and Mercedes, but nobody would hire me in LA, so I just took a job with Lexus. And then from Lexus to BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari, Maserati.
How has it changed? I focus a lot more on customer service. My focus is taking care of the client because when you go to a dealership to acquire a car, it’s basically they want you in and they want you out. It’s a numbers game. I like to focus time on taking care of the clients and spending time with the clients. And trying to do events that may be worth their while, or something that might be engaging to them. That’s how I view it.
With Floyd, I saw that he called you and said he wanted a Bugatti in 12 hours. That sounds like an impossible task.
He called me at 3 in the morning. This was Bugatti No. 2. The second Bugatti I sold him, and he wanted it in 12 hours. This was approximately a year ago [in the lead-up to the first Marcos Maidana fight] because he wanted the car to drive to the gym that day. He wanted a different Bugatti to drive to the gym.
When he called you at 3 a.m., what was running through your head?
I was just getting accustomed to receiving calls from him in the middle of the night for the past six weeks. When he called me in the middle of the night, I would just basically keep the phone on. That particular night, when he called me, my wife was like, “Oh, my God, honey, who is this calling you?” I picked up the call, walked downstairs as I’m talking to him, and he told me he wanted a car in his
driveway in 12 hours.
I was a little foggy, obviously, I was in a deep sleep. So first thing I did was I hopped in the shower. You gotta wake yourself up. Got dressed, then I went to my office. I got to my office around 4:45, 5 in the morning. … Once I hung up with him, I’m just thinking of a strategy of how I’m going to get him this car in that time frame. …
I knew where there were a few cars. I said, well, I need to hop on a plane. I think I took a 7:30 flight out in the morning. I went to a destination that was closest to him that I felt I could get the car to him. When I got there, they weren’t open yet. So I went to IHOP, got some breakfast, then I went there and said I want to buy this Bugatti. They thought that I wasn’t serious. I called my partner, wired the money. Then the problem was trying to get a truck to flatbed it to his home. That was the biggest problem. The biggest hiccup was trying to find a specialized flatbed.
When I called him, I said, “Champ, the problem is going to be getting the car to your house on a flatbed.” He goes, “I don’t care; just drive it to me.” I won’t tell you where I was, so I hit the road, and I drove it to him. That’s how I got it to him. …