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From Bet9ja to ValueJet: Soname bets on airline

From Bet9ja to ValueJet: Soname bets on airline

Nine years after establishing Bet9ja, one of the biggest betting companies in Nigeria, Kunle Soname has made a foray into the aviation sector with a new airline, ValueJet.

ValueJet Airline, which was launched recently, commenced commercial flight operations on Monday in Lagos. Its inaugural flights took off at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Terminal 2, Ikeja, to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Asaba and Jos.

The company said flights to the routes would continue daily, with plans to introduce more routes and frequency when its fourth and fifth aircraft arrive.

Soname said the airline would be a hybrid carrier offering both low-cost and legacy options for everyone to fly.

ValueJet came into the industry at a time when local carriers are struggling with high operating costs that have forced two major domestic carriers, Dana Air and Aero Contractors, out of business.

Soname is a Nigerian politician, entrepreneur and a sports enthusiast.

He is the chairman of Bet9ja, a betting website he founded in 2013.

He hails from Remo, Ogun State. He attended Government College Lagos for his secondary school education, and proceeded to the Lagos State University. He ventured into politics in 2003 and was elected as the chairman of Ikosi-Isheri Local Council, a post he held till 2011.

In 2004, Soname founded Remo Stars Football Club, previously known as FC DENDER. The club was then relocated from Lagos State to Remo, Ogun State, and is now playing in the Nigerian Premier League’s Top Division.

Read also: Value Jet begins flight operations, mulls expansion

Soname is the first Nigerian to own a European football club, Clube Desportivo Feirense, commonly known as CD Feirense.

He acquired the club through his company called Tavistock Global Resource Limited in 2015, two years after launching Bet9ja. Soname secured 70 percent of the club, which plays in the Liga Portugal 2, the second-highest division of the Portuguese football league

Bet9ja, with a trading name “KC Gaming Networks Limited, is a lottery website licensed under the Lagos State Lotteries Board.

Bet9ja was able to break into the market by introducing offline play, which turned out to be a source of employment for Nigerian youths. It has also continued to improve its betting platform by introducing a 100 percent reward for new customers as a stake bonus upon registration, increased the potential winnings for betters to N40 million, the highest so far in Nigeria and recently included Cash Out option.

In 2015, Bet9ja became the official sponsor of the Nigeria Women’s Football League after a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two parties, with Super Eagles star player Victor Ikpeba made the brand ambassador of Bet9ja. It was the official sponsor of a popular reality television show, Big Brother Naija season 4.

Soname has said ValueJet would base its services on the need for the right pricing.

“ValueJet is hardly a stranger in the industry and all operational insights from previous partnerships have been applied in building our business plan and propositions,” he said during the inaugural flight.

“We have identified a niche in the sector, the need for fair pricing amidst the rising cost of commercial aviation to the average customer compounded by tough economic realities for air operators.”

The airline recently announced that it had taken delivery of three CRJ900 jets, 5N-BXS, 5N-BXT and 5N-BXR, concluded all required demo flights and had received the Air Operator Certificate, authorising the airline to carry out specified commercial air transport operations.