Kirubi, the shrewd businessman who minted billions

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 00:00 |
Businessman Chris Kirubi in his office. He died yesterday at the age of 80. Photo/PD/FILE

Steve Umidha @UmidhaSteve

Billionaire investor and a serial business mogul Chris Kirubi died yesterday at his Nairobi home at the age of 80 after close to a decade battling cancer.

DJ CK – acronym for Chris Kirubi, as he was fondly known, owing to his radio show, first came public about his battle with cancer in 2017 upon his return from a yearlong treatment at a Boston Hospital in the United States.

The passing of the businessman was announced in a statement on Monday afternoon.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr Christopher J Kirubi (1941-2021) who passed away today, Monday the 14th of June, 2021 at 1pm at his home after a long battle with cancer fought with fortitude, grace and courage. He was surrounded by his family,” his family said in a statement.

Kirubi joins a long list of prominent figures who have succumbed to cancer in recent years, including former Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore, Kibra MP Ken Okoth and Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso.

“Top of the morning to you, my dear friend. It doesn’t have to be a tiring Monday. Instead, I bring to you good tidings of favour, success, achievements and happiness in the new week.

Give yourself a go towards your success plan. Enjoy today and the rest of your week,” he tweeted yesterday morning.

As part of his legacy, it’s the business acumen of the owner of Capital Group Limited– the holding company that runs Capital FM – which will be remembered most.

The father of two had several investments across major sectors including media, manufacturing, property management, insurance and investment companies including Centum – the company behind the giant Two Rivers Mall estimated to be worth Sh15.5 billion.

The project’s apartment cost is estimated to around Sh3.8 billion, while the infrastructure development is capped at over Sh5.8 billion.

According to his corporate online profile, Kirubi owned 24 companies and employed 1,603 people.

Harvard University

In acknowledgement of his contributions to the field of entrepreneurship, he was conferred with an Honorary Philosophical Doctorate in Entrepreneurship by the SMA University, Switzerland.

The Harvard-trained tycoon is one of the most tech-conscious and social media-savvy businessmen in the country and kept active Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Kirubi was the chairman of Haco Tiger Brands Kenya Limited, Capital Media Group, International House Limited, DHL Worldwide Express Limited, Nairobi Bottlers and Smart Applications International Limited among others.

He also served as the deputy chairman of Bayer East Africa Limited and was a director and shareholder at the Centum Investment Group as well as at Harvard Global Advisory Council (Massachusetts, USA), on the Board of Friends of Africa (Global Fund) and on the Advisory Board of the Global Business Coalition on Health matters (GBC Health).

Kirubi served on the Africa Advisory Board at Harvard University Centre for African Studies.

He will also be remembered for his keynote lectures, writing his weekly business column and mentoring young Kenyan entrepreneurs online.

Kirubi also found time to make appearances on his Kenyan hip-hop videos, movies, and even hosted a show on Capital FM.

As chair of the board of Haco Tiger Brands where he had a 49 per cent stake, Kirubi made millions after selling part of this business to French multinational Société BIC.

Kirubi reportedly got a total compensation of nearly Sh2 billion from the deal.

As head of the board of Nairobi Bottlers, a local franchisee of Coca-Cola, which accounts for 47 per cent of all beverage sales in Kenya, Centum announced it had completed the sale of its shareholding in Almasi Beverages and Nairobi Bottlers to Coca-Cola Sabco East Africa. 

Centum held 53.9 per cent of the issued shares of Almasi Beverages and 27.6 per cent in Nairobi Bottlers. Coca-Cola Sabco East Africa paid Centum Sh19.4 billion.

He owned 45 per cent of agrochemical firm Bayer East Africa, a firm that is set for a merger with the local subsidiary of Monsanto as part of a larger global transaction valued at Sh6.2 trillion.

Kirubi’s International House in Nairobi’s central business district is one of his most iconic units and on several occasions, would tell how he started off as a salesperson for an insurance company known as International House Limited before he eventually bought its headquarters.

His interest in some of East Africa’s most ambitious property developments was unrivalled and it includes Two Rivers in Gigiri and the Pearl Marina Project in Uganda, which are major real estate projects and icons in the sector.

As a major trader on the bourse where he owned shares ranging from KQ’s where he was among the major investors to real estate and insurance.

Kirubi accumulated more shares in his holding in the investment firm Centum, which was valued at highs of Sh12 billion in 2015. 

Kirubi also had interest in key listed banks and insurance companies.

He reportedly owned a stake in the local franchise of global logistics firm DHL which has a presence in over 220 countries and territories worldwide, particularly in sea and airmail.

While eulogising Kirubi, President Uhuru Kenyatta remembered the father of two as a seasoned businessman, entrepreneur and industrialist who founded and successfully ran some of Kenya’s largest corporations.

“I have received the shocking news of the passing away of my friend Chris Kirubi with a lot of sadness.

The cruel hand of death has robbed our nation of a patriot whose entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and determination saw him create some of our country’s largest enterprises which offer employment to thousands of our people,” Uhuru said in a statement.

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