Kenya Billionaires: In Kenya, there are some well known billionaires. There are also billionaires that the majority of Kenyans probably don’t know about. Let’s take a look as was recently illustrated by the Standard Digital Edition (SDE).
Kenya billionaires: Kimani Rugendo
After failing to capture the Lang’ata parliamentary seat during the 1992 General Election, politician-cum-investor Kimani Rugendo, set out to build his company, Kevian Kenya, whose first product was bottled drinking water — Mt Kenyan.
But it wasn’t until 1995 that the Ford-Asili party Nairobi chairman, armed with a Sh25 million war chest from savings and friends, began serious production.
From bottled water, the company diversified to Pick ‘N’ Peel and Afia ready-to-drink juices. Both brands are sold in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and Zambia.
Afia is now produced at the rate of 40,000 bottles per hour, up from 10,000. Rugendo has now started producing eight carbonated variants of non-alcoholic malt drinks, including Plain Malt, Energy Malt, Lemon Malt and Orange Malt.
In June last year, Kevian Kenya expanded its product portfolio with a new Sh2 billion investment that has seen it offer its own brands of coffee, tomato sauce and packed vegetable soups targeting middle-class shoppers and high-end hotels. The fresh investment has been funded from Kevian’s internal cash flow. The Thika-based plant produces 250 tonnes of the products per day.
The coffee is available in four flavours, including lemon malt, plain malt and energy malt. The coffee drink and tomato juice are available in 300 millilitre bottles. The venture has employed 300 new staff.
Rugendo registered a new subsidiary, Sterling Kenya Ltd last year to produce tanks after investing an estimated Sh500 million. Sterling, with it’s over 60 strong staff, will be making 100 tanks in six hours.
The man who once operated the popular Jean’s Bar in Nairobi West in the 1990s as a ‘hobby,’ had by the early 1980s founded Sterling Craft Ltd, which manufactured industrial equipment and military regalia. Sterling Craft still supplies berets, medallions and ceremonial swords to the Kenya Police and the Kenya Defence Forces, besides supplying milking machines, pipes, fittings and generators.
Kenya billionaires: Francis Mburu
City billionaire businessman Francis Mburu operated for decades from the fringes until the Ruaraka land saga played out in the media, and he was summoned by the authorities for interrogation regarding the land’s Sh1.5 billion partial compensation for his 13.5 acres on which Ruaraka Secondary and Drive Inn Primary schools were built.
The parcel was part of his 96 acres acquired in 1981 “when I was 31 years old”. He claimed that he sold 40 acres from that huge chunk for half the actual value.
Mburu was also paid Sh1.8 billion out of Sh2.4 billion he sought as compensation for the 34 acres on which 196 housing units for the General Service Unit officers were built.
Before then, few knew the businessman who runs 50 companies and he acknowledged as much: “I don’t show off. Do you know me? I am a down-to-earth person, but they are hurting me for nothing…I am not a billionaire, but I am a rich person…not very rich, just a man on the streets,” said the man who also appeared before the Senate committee that was probing the land deal.
Kenya billionaires: Pius Ngugi
Few knew how billionaire Pius Ngugi, another recluse, looked like, apart from those who watched movies in local theatres. Ngugi was once filmed at his Thika Coffee Mills that was broadcasted by Kenya Newsreel before the screening of Crimson Tide starring Denzel Washington in 1995.
Outside movie theatres, Ngugi would later be exposed following domestic problems with Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris who took him to court for upkeep in 2003.
Ngugi also went to court in 2011 accusing Passaris of financial coercion. But before the case was heard, Ngugi sought a court order blocking any publication or press coverage of the matter, arguing that previous proceedings between him and Passaris attracted intense and harmful intrusion into their privacy.
But his photo was never in the public sphere until 2014, when he was sued by another woman, Lynette Lucy Buddery, for failing to pay their daughter’s school fees in time. Ngugi told the court that he had met his obligation by providing for the material needs of the daughter.
Before then, Ngugi was a wealthy businessman with interests sweeping across insurance, real estate and property, coffee farming and processing, winery, ranching and nut processing – his Kenya Nut Company controls a tenth of the world’s market. He also once held the Volvo franchise in Kenya.
Kenyan billionaires: Dicky Evans
Tycoon Dicky Evans is known as the owner of Hemingways Watamu, Hemingways Karen and Ol Seki Mara hotels. The avid golfer who is in big game fishing was once the Kenyan rugby captain in the 1970s enroute to owning UK rugby team Cornish Pirates.
While his businesses, including Homegrown, a horticultural concern (which was sold and renamed Flamingo Holdings), are in the limelight, Evans, a dam and construction engineer now 75 years old, steers clear of unwanted publicity.
Kenya billionaires: Daniel Gachukia
Mike Maina, James Kanyotu, Jimi Wanjigi, Francis Mburu, Pius Ngugi, Dicky Evans and even Ambassador Daniel Gachukia, the founding director of the eminent Riara Group of Schools, are just samples of reclusive Kenyans, whose covers are blown much to their discomfiture. But there are several others.
Africa Nazarene University psychologist James Mbugua says being reclusive boils down to someone’s personality type, of which there are four: melancholics, sanguines, phlegmatics and cholerics.
“Most reclusive people are generally melancholics. Melancholics do not want limelight, so you will never notice them,” explains Mbugua, adding that they make the best workers as “they are normally analytical, very perceptive and clever.”
But people who are extremely shy, Mbugua explains, may be suffering from personality disorders, and this can only be established after mental evaluation before psycho-therapeutic care is recommended.
This is quite telling. Kanyotu, for instance, rarely worked from the headquarters of the Special Branch at Kingsway House along Muindi Mbingu Street.
Instead, he preferred running his affairs from his 70-roomed mansion in Redhill, Tigoni, now famous as the Sovereign Suites, whose extensive wood panelling is indicative of his love for timber.
Kanyotu, shadowy and self-effacing, toiled and bowed out as he had come: a total enigma. In retirement, he held the most intimate secrets of the Kenyan government before his death at 71 in 2008.
Kenyan billionaires: Erastus Mungai
Former Rift Valley Police boss James Erastus Mungai is the other recluse who operates from his Engashura Farm in Nakuru. His aversion for publicity has been well documented. He has turned the expansive former colonial farm into a hub of commercial breeding of horses and dairy cows.
Now bending his 90s, Mungai was a towering figure in the Kenyatta regime, until Jomo died and Mungai became a target of the State and after a brief exile, returned to a life of quietude.
Kenya Billionaires: Paul Kinuthia
Paul is one of the few Kenyans to have engaged in multi billion deals. In 2013, he pocketed Sh. 3 billion after selling the Nice & Lovely brand to multinational firm, L’Oreal. The businessman first burst onto the national stage four years ago when his company InterConsumer Products won the Business Daily’s TOP100 SMEs competition. He had started his company with a capital of Sh. 3,000 he used to buy chemicals to make one of Kenya’s home-grown shampoos.