Saturday, September 23, 2023

Rose Kimotho: How I lost K24, Kameme FM to the Kenyattas

The topic of how the Kenyatta family came to own K24 and Kameme FM has always been a subject of speculation.

However, there have been good insights on what transpired, and how a small loan ended up consuming Rose Kimotho to the point of handing over the media business she had founded to the Kenyattas.

At the time, the Business Daily reported: “Sources familiar with the deal say the transfer of Regional Reach assets to TV Africa is linked to the fact that K24 was set up with financing from a local bank in which the Kenyatta family has a major shareholding.”

Ms. Kimotho was reported to have handed her business to TV Africa Holdings in October 9 2009. At the time, TV Africa Holdings was linked to the Kenyatta family.

Kimotho had announced the sale and transfer of Regional Reach’s assets in a gazette notice published on August 14, 2009. The list of assets that were earmarked for transfer included radio and television broadcasting, rural marketing and other media initiatives.

Kimotho later opened up about what transpired. She narrated how a Sh. 12 million iverdraft from CBA Bank (now NCBA) ballooned so rapidly that she became unable to repay it.

“CBA called me for a meeting and said the overdraft was now at Sh. 70 million. They said, ‘Your overdraft is now Sh. 70 million. Initially, you had an overdraft of Sh. 12 million. You’ll never get out of this.’ And of course with an overdraft, the interest is humongous and it (grows every 24 hours). It just kept growing,” she said.

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Kimotho remembered how “bank officials” asked her, “How do you intend to pay for this loan?”

“(It is) either an investor comes in or they buy you. And that’s what happened. And that’s how we lost K24. And what always haunted me was because of the circumstances. What could I have done better? Maybe I should not have started with a bank loan. Maybe I should not have started with a dream,” she said.

The overdraft had been taken as part of a plan to position K24 into a major news and ekections coverage centre during the 2007 General Elections. It had also enabled the station to hire Louis Otieno from Citizen TV, who was then the biggest name in Kenya’s television business.

However, the dispute that resulted from the elections and the post election violence that followed pushed K24 and Ms. Kimotho over the cliff.

“The saddest thing in the history of the country and the history of K24 is the post-election violence,” she said. Apparently, due to the post election violence, advertisers on K24 ran thin.

“It was followed with six months of zero income and six months of costs and no income and six months of an overdraft with CBA bank getting deeper and deeper,” she said. “The dreams, the whatever we planned of K24 just went down the drain.”

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