Ali Modu Sheriff was born in Ngala Town, Ngala Local Government Area, Borno State in 1956. His father was the business tycoon Galadima Modu Sheriff. He attended Government Secondary School, Bama (1974–1979). He attended the London School of Business, where he studied Insurance, Banking and Finance. In 1981, he joined his father's construction company as a Director, later becoming Managing Director. In 1985, he registered his first company. His companies include Meroil Organisation and Union Chase.