Ogunlesi is from Makun, Sagamu, Ogun State in Nigeria. He is the son of Theophilus O. Ogunlesi, the first Nigerian professor of medicine at University of Ibadan. His family is of Yoruba origin.
Ogunlesi went to King's College, Lagos, a secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria. He received a B.A. with first class honors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University in England. In 1979, he received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, which he pursued at the same time. During his time at Harvard, he was on the Harvard Law Review.
From 1980 to 1981, Ogunlesi served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. Ogunlesi was an attorney in the corporate practice group of the New York City law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he had been a summer associate while studying for his M.B.A.
In 1983, Ogunlesi joined the investment bank First Boston as an advisor on a Nigerian gas project. At First Boston, he worked in the Project Finance Group, advising clients on transactions and financings and has worked on transactions in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. From 1997 to 2002, he was the Head of the Global Energy Group of the by then renamed Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). In 2002, Ogunlesi was appointed Global Head of CSFB's Investment Banking Division. Also in 2002, he served as a member of Credit Suisse’s Executive Board and Management Committee. From 2004 to 2006, Ogunlesi was Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer of CSFB.
In July 2006, Ogunlesi started the private equity firm, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a joint venture whose initial investors included Credit Suisse and General Electric. He currently serves as Chairman and Managing Partner.
In 2006, GIP bought London City Airport. In 2009, GIP acquired the majority in London Gatwick Airport in a deal worth £1.455 billion. The Nigerian press has given him the nickname, "The Man Who Bought Gatwick Airport." GIP also owns Edinburgh Airport, which they bought in 2012.
Ogunlesi is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association. While working at Credit Suisse First Boston, he was a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School of Organization and Management, where he taught a course on transnational investment projects in emerging countries.
In October 2012, Ogunlesi was appointed to the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs. On July 24, 2014, he was named Lead Director.
In December 2016, it was announced that Ogunlesi, among other business leaders, would be part of Donald Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, which was disbanded on Aug 16, 2017.
Ogunlesi has been married to British-born optometrist, Dr. Amelia Quist-Ogunlesi since 1985. They have two children.
Recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.Harvard Business School: Member, Board of Dean's Advisors
Harvard Law School: Member, Leadership Council of New York
Harvard University: Member, Global Advisory Council
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: Member, National Board of Directors
NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital: Member, Board of Trustees
Partnership for New York City Fund: Member, Board of Directors
Ogunlesi, Adebayo (1979). The Basic Human Needs Approach to Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law School. OCLC 81062298. Submitted to: Professor C. Clyde Ferguson, Jr. [for the] Seminar: Legal Problems of the New International Economics Order (Harvard third year paper)