Lagos hotelier, Larry Gentry is pretty actress, Mercy Aigbe’s husband. He is also a popular car dealer, a business he has been doing for about 20 years.
However, Larry hardly talks to the media. As a rule, he does not grant interviews. But he broke his rule in November 2015 when he spoke to City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE, SOLA BAMIDELE, MATILDA & LEKAN AMUSA about his life and marriage to Mercy. In this 2 hour interview he took head long all the controversies making the rounds about him. Its was a no holds barred interview. He revealed then, why he can never beat his wife, MERCY.
You turned 50 recently, how does it make your feel?
It is not easy turning 50. I really don’t feel I am 50, it just came from the blues. It came too fast. I still can’t believe I am 50. I still can’t feel it. I still ask myself are you really 50. But to God be the glory. It’s not easy. Its been a long journey. I thank God for everything. I thank God for all I have been able to accomplish, to stand on my own in business.
And to be able to stay in Lagos for 30 to 40 years has not been an easy task. A lot of water has passed under the bridge. I have been through a lot. There have been a lot of challenges.
Like what and what?
I am the first born of my family and it is not easy for 1st borns, everywhere in the world. My mother has 7 children. I am the 1st born. And we are 30 something in number. He has 3 wives. Actually my father really tried for us. He made sure all his children must be a graduate before you start anything like a career.
Where were you born?
I was born in Ilesha. But my parents stay in Ikare. I started my primary school in Ikare in Ondo State, at Local Authority Primary School. After that I attended Victory College Ikare from there I attended University of Benin where I studied Political Science/Education.
I was born into the business of cars. My father was into cars, since I was born. I met my father selling cars. Uptill now that is still their business since the man passed on.
I started car business in 1989. I finished my University in 1985. I moved from Nigeria to Belgium. That is where I started my business. Then, with little money, you can start car business. That is why I think of my mother all the time. My father used to tell me then I didn’t send you to Lagos ooo! You are on your own in Lagos. Up till when the man died he used to tell me that. And I use to joke with him that this Lagos you didn’t send me to I have built houses there, how come?
All the properties my father has in Lagos I bought it for him. He didn’t come here. He usually refuse to come to Lagos to come and look at the land or the house. He will just send drafts. He trusted me so much. There was a place I bought for him. It has about 35 flats at Ogba there. I so cherish my parents.
After God, comes my parents. My parents inculcated hardwork in us. They told us to be ourselves and not to go out with too much friends. And don’t expect everybody to be good, its only you that can’t deceive yourself.
My father used to say a lot of people are ready to deceive you. I inherited all these values from my Dad.
I really thank God for where I am today. I am the first born but all my brothers are successful in their own right. There is none of my brothers that does not have house in Lagos. We didn’t depend on what our father left for us.
What have been the challenges you have faced all these years?
A lot, like the Economy. In 1993/94, I was into car business. I lost a house I built in Ojodu, around Omole, opposite Grammar School. I built a house there 2 storey building. A duplex. I had finished the house. I rented it out.
Along the line, somebody just came and said the land belongs to him, that we should vacate the place. I went to meet the Baba that sold the land to me, He too said thats how they came to him to come tell him the land is not his mothers land again. The house was demolished I had spent about N8 million naira on it. I had to continue my life. I moved back to my garage and I started business again. Life must continue. If God says you will stand you will stand.
How about marriage?
I married early. I married at the age of 27 because I finished school early.
You know in Ekiti and Ondo we like Education. I graduated at the age of 22, and I married at the age of 27. At the age of 27, I had become a millionaire from doing business. Then, I don’t have account. I didn’t use to keep money in the bank. Up till now, I still think a good businessman should not be keeping money in the bank because it is not worth it.
Once we sell any car now, we are going to the Mallam to change the naira to dollars. All my brothers lived with me in Anthony Village then. My brothers used to go abroad with me. After I started the business again, I met Savijay Oloruntoyin. He now started advising me. Then, we used to enjoy ourselves. We used to go to Lapariah Club. That was in 1996/97.
THE STORY OF MY MARRIAGES
I got married in 1992. My daughter, Lara is 23. She is a graduate. When I look at my life, especially my married life, it made me know that what God planned for you is usually different from your plan, for yourself. That is the way I think of myself.
My mum used to tell me, Lanre do you see what happened to me in your father’s house ooo. Please, don’t marry 2 wives ooo. My mother always say that. I now put that in my mind. What she said is true. I was very, very young then and I saw a lot of things. My father doesn’t allow nonsense. My father can’t sit down and you will sit with him. It is not possible. My mother also told me, don’t have too much children. She said I should cut my coat according to my size. That is anything I do I should not go beyond my means.
But when we were planning, God had His own plan too. When my first wife started misbehaving I could not complain. I had to bear it since my mother says I should not have two wives. So I must endure.
We now got to a point in the heat of my problems with my ex-wife, my brother now called me aside one day and said Uncle Lanre you will die ooo! And if you die this woman will live. In those days things got so bad that in Dublin, on the main road, I started fighting with my wife.
Yet, I still came back to Nigeria, I didn’t let my people know. One day I sat down and thought to myself, you this Lanre you will kill yourself over this woman. My wife left in Lagos, telling me she wants to go and see my children in England. But my wife bought a ticket to the US. When she got there, they called me: Lanre she is in the US right now. I said no way. She should be in the UK not US. They said they saw her at a party in the US.
I am saying all these to you to let you know that a lot of people don’t know that I was not the one who chased her away so that I can remarry. Some people went to the extent of saying my wife, Mercy drove my former wife out of the house. It is not true.
By the time Mercy came on the scene I was separated already. I didn’t know Mercy at the time I was having issues. It was about 2 to 3 years after my first wife left that I met Mercy.
Marital problems can bring men down. My marriage problems then affected me negatively. I lost interest in business. To even do business for almost 3 years I could not do. I have been so used to her. I became dependent on her. Even went to the extent of opening joint account with her at Zenith Bank. But my travails taught me a lot of lessons. Once, if you do business in this Lagos and you want to stabilize and not pack your things back to the village, the first thing is you must have a house or a roof over your head where you are not paying rent. That is what made me survive. I won’t lie to anybody. My house was under decking then, I moved in like that, without window, without decking.
The spirit of the house made me complete it. I listened to my father’s advice that you should keep to whatever business you are doing that was giving you recognition. So, I have kept to my car business. The name is called Larry Gents, it’s is higher and more popular than me. The name of my hotel is called Laveronic, is higher than me. It is beyond me. So, anything we are doing, we should do good to ourself. That is what I believe that is what has been keeping me.
What kind of business have you been doing?
I am a businessman. I can do any legitimate business. I buy and sell. I import. The only business I don’t do are illegitimate business. I can’t be an Armed Robber. I can’t be 419. I can sell land. I know how to do business and make profit. I am a good businessman. I do contracts.
How were you able to survive in the car business?
The business of selling cars is unlike before. The car business we are doing now is who knows who. I survived it because I have always been contented. The cars I sell now are my own cars that I imported. I don’t collect cars from anyone to sell. The hotel business is bringing money to sustain the family and pay bills, school fees.
How did you meet Mercy? How did your mom accept Mercy?
What happened was after the crash of my first marriage and after the ‘wahala’, I had with my ex-wife. I took her to the Police Station. People tried to beg me to leave her. The female police officer on the case then was my friend. The lady told me to leave this woman (my ex-wife) don’t kill yourself, because of a woman. I now asked her will you marry me? If I let her go. My brother you can’t imagine what I went through. I went to Abidap Hotel, somebody called me that they saw my wife at Abidap. The police woman now called me, where are you, I told her. She now said this man you will kill yourself ooo. I now started agonizing how am I going to cope with the 3 kids she has for me. It was then 10 years marriage. The lady said I should come and see her. In this life I always say God has plan for everything. When the lady said I should let her go, I left her. I started my life all over again.
How did you meet Mercy?
I met Mercy through one Muyiwa. Mercy was not into acting then. Mercy was a staff of Zenith Bank for 6 months. When I saw her with him, I told him I like this girl ooo. That day she didn’t even answer. She is not friendly. I said ok. I now begged Muyiwa that I want the girl to befriend me. I said I want to just be her friend. If you can link me to her I will give you N20,000. He went to her house in Maryland.
He now said he has talked to her and she said she does not need a boyfriend. She needs a husband, that she is not ready to do boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. I said no problem. He took me to her house in Maryland and on getting there, I met one lady, Bimbo. I was inside my car. Bimbo called her out. She refused. I now told Bimbo to talk to Mercy, that if she agrees I will give her N50,000. Talk to her.
She said, Mercy now came to meet me in the car. She said ok, I am sorry Mr. Lanre, don’t be angry. I have my fiancée. I can’t double date. I said nooo. I don’t say you should date me. I just want you as a friend. Let’s just be friends. Bimbo now said, Uncle Lanre, don’t worry. I will talk to her. That is why I said anything God wants there will be away.
The following week, somebody just leaked the secret of the boyfriend to me that the guy has a wife in Ikorodu. That the wife of the guy stays with the mother of the guy with 3 children. And my wife hates one thing–lying. She does not lie. You can depend on what she says. She went there to check it out, met his mother and asked who owns the child. She said it is the guy, and that the lady out there is his wife.
She just called me and said Lanre where are you? I said I am at home. She said come and pick me. I was shocked! I said pick you? I rushed there. I met her crying. She said just take me out of here. Bimbo was there. She told me what happened. I now said I told you that is how we men are. That is how we started.
So, tell us more about your wife, Mercy.
Many people don’t know Mercy. She’s homely. She is ready to keep her marriage. She wants to keep her home at all costs. She has made our marriage work. There was a time they said we fought in one hotel. It is a lie ooo. We didn’t fight. Like in every relationship there will be occasional arguments from time to time but is that a fight? I am not used to beating women. I have never beaten a woman. I can’t beat Mercy. Even my children I can’t beat them. I don’t have the time to start beating women or argue over anything.
How have you been coping being married to a celebrity like Mercy with this their lifestyle of being on location all the time?
You know, I am an hotelier, and a car dealer. The 2 are tough businesses. I usually leave my hotel late at 12 midnight, sometimes 1 am here till 2 am. My wife always makes food for me. She always makes sure I am happy and anywhere I am. She calls me. She is a dutiful wife. We speak regularly. She is not a party person. Wherever she chooses to go, by 6 p.m. or 7 pm. she will start to feel sleepy. That is why we call her Ororo, because she sleeps quickly.
She hardly goes for events. I always force her to honour events. I always tell her to go oo because she too will need them. That is why they always invite me, to events so that I can bring her along.
Have you ever felt intimidated by her success?
Nooo! She is the celebrity, not me. I look at her as my wife. I always enjoy how people rush to her to take photographs with her. She is the star, not me. At times, when she does not want to answer them, I always tell her nooo, you have to answer them ooo. Go and snap with them. That is one thing I have changed in her.
I told her that no matter how small a person is, or no matter how poor a person is, human being is human being. I am happy for her. I am older than her. I am a matured person. And she accords me my respect. We have been married for 12 years. My son is 6 years.