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 Veyron 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 some reports, could rake in as much as $180 million this Saturday when he faces 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. …
Is that just the life of a luxury exotic-car dealer?
He will call me on cars that are $500,000 and up. $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, that’s when I’ll get the call. I sold him a lot of [Rolls-Royces], and I sold him a lot of Bentleys. I don’t know if a franchised dealer is willing to do what I do. I don’t know if a franchised dealer is going to be able to take the phone calls in the middle of the night. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to open up their showroom in the middle of the night for him.
My rule with Floyd is one hour. Floyd will call me and say, “I’m on my way.” He’ll call me at midnight, 12:30, 1, 2 in the morning and say, “I’m on my way.” That means he’s on his way to my dealership. The only thing I ask of him is just give me one hour because I’ve got to get up and get ready and head to the dealership. My dealership is about 45 minutes from my house. He will call me in Las Vegas, sitting on his jet about to take off, and tell me he’s on his way. It takes him about 45 minutes to get to LA from Vegas. I try to give him service that nobody else will provide.
Do you think he’s trying to challenge you?
You never know what his next move is going to be. You never know. … I don’t know if he challenges me, I just know he has high expectations of himself, so therefore there are going to be high expectations of everybody around him. There isn’t any room for mediocrity at all. It doesn’t exist. …
We’re in a restaurant at 12:30 at night in Vegas, and we’re just sitting there hanging out. He tells the guy to go to my car and get a bag. They get a bag, he goes to the bathroom, he runs out of the bathroom, out of the restaurant and just keeps running! It’s his security detail’s job to realize he’s going jogging [and] to hop in their cars and follow him for 7 miles! It’s incredible.
I’m at the Wynn resort in Vegas. He calls me at 12:30 [after] midnight, and Vegas is on fire. He says, “Obi, what are you doing?” I say I’m just hanging out. He says, “OK, why don’t come meet me at Fatburger?” I go to Fatburger on the strip, and I hang out with him at Fatburger. From there, we go to his house. We’re hanging out at his house. Then these bags start moving around. I said, “Floyd what are we doing?” He said, “Let’s go to the gym.”
At 3:30 in the morning, he starts heading to the gym. He spars for one hour, killing these sparring partners. And then he runs out of the gym and starts running for 7 miles. I have him on video. He doesn’t care what time it is. If he feels the need to do what he wants to do to workout and train, he’s going to do it. I don’t know if he challenges me or if I’m just in this environment of his and this is just how he operates. It keeps me on my toes. It makes me want to work harder. It makes me think out of the box. I push myself harder. I take it all in stride, and I appreciate the opportunity. I make sure that I do whatever I can possibly do to meet and fulfill his needs and his demands. I view it as a blessing.
I know you said in that video that he forces you to raise your game.
Absolutely, I raise my game. It puts me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes we need to be out of our comfort zone.
(Okeke speaks later on about Mayweather’s generosity.)
He’s got a residence at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown LA. If he’s there for like a week, when he leaves, he will gather every single valet driver, 10 or 11 of them. He will distribute anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 to each of the valet guys. If you look at Floyd, and you look at the games he goes to, whether the Lakers games, the Clippers games, whatever game he goes to, whoever’s with him staffwise, they’re with him. They all watch the game. He doesn’t just buy tickets for himself and then leaves everybody outside. He buys tickets for himself and everybody. He brings them in to watch the game. …
I was at his house the other night. I was trying to leave. I said, “Floyd, I’ll be right back” because I hadn’t eaten all day. … He said, “Don’t go anywhere, let me call my chef.” He calls his chef; she comes over an hour later and cooks this big meal for everybody. The guy is an anomaly. I’ve never met anybody like this man.
Would you think he was a fighter by just looking at his personality?
No. His personality, if you hung out with him and you never knew who he was, you would think he was a mathematician or a nuclear physicist. If you just looked at him and looked at his face and just talked to him, you would think that. He always has a strategy. … He’s a guy with a plan.
Have you thought about opening a store in Vegas?
We think about it; we talk about it. Because of where we are in a very remote area, [Mayweather] drives out to the middle of nowhere to see me. I open up in the middle of the night every time. Seventy percent of our cars go out of state, so yeah, we could definitely operate in a place like Vegas. … I’m out there five to six times a month right now. Sometimes I’m there three times in a week.
Looking at Mayweather’s car collection, do you think that’s part of his competitive spirit to have the rarest cars?
It’s part of his lifestyle. Floyd understands that there are a lot of people that claim to be living a lifestyle they are not living. And he is living that lifestyle. Unlike anybody else, he has no debt. He has no debt on any of his cars and real estate holdings. He has a tremendous amount of cars and a tremendous amount of real estate — and no debt. There are celebrities out there I know, and a lot people know, that finance their cars and lease their cars. All of their Bugattis are financed and leased. He’s got three Bugattis that are all cash. Every car in his garage, all cash. All of the condos he has in Vegas, all cash. Fifth Avenue in New York, cash. Miami, 7,000-square-foot penthouse, cash. LA, cash. The thing about Floyd, he is the only signatory on his account. Nobody manages his money but him. So when I get paid, it’s not like we’re waiting for the business office. It’s all Floyd. He writes the check himself.
Nobody else does that?
No. Everybody that I’ve dealt with, the money was coming from their business office, or [an] agent was going to get the money to me. He is the first celebrity I’ve met that writes his own check, that manages his own money. I’m not expecting a check from a CPA or an agent or anything. It’s from him.
“He’s sold boxing champ Floyd Mayweather 39 cars … and counting” originally appeared at Automotive News on 4/29/15.