Entry into politics led to the end of Matiba's business empire NEVER MISS A STORY
6 months ago, 17 Apr 00:30
Unlike other politicos who became rich after entering politics, Kenneth Matiba was wealthy before he ran for the Mbiri seat in 1978. His political campaigns were epic: long convoys of vehicles that stretched for kilometres coupled with unending freebies of merchandise and food at his Embassy home in Murang’a. Unlike his opponent, Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano, Mr Matiba had made a name within Mbiri Constituency (now Kiharu) as an generous contributor to harambee projects in the’ 70s. By the time he entered politics at the age of 46, Matiba owned the prestigious Alliance Group of Hotels, Alliance Jadini Hotel, Alliance Safari Beach, Alliance Africana Sea Lodge, and Alliance Naro Moru Lodge. He also owned the Hillcrest Group of Schools and was a major horticultural exporter. Matiba built his business empire through trial and error, and sheer tenacity. But eventually he was unable to balance business and politics, and when the end came, thanks to his failing health and huge debts, not even his managers could save his business empire. BIG-TIME BUSINESS Matiba’s entry into the hotel business came thanks to his appointment as the chairman of the Kenya Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) when he was the permanent secretary for commerce. He bought Brunner’s Hotel in Nairobi, a run-down structure was adjacent to the modern-day 680 Hotel. Together with his business partner, George Robinson, he started developing properties and selling them, marking his entry into big-time business. They then bought Jadini Hotel, a derelict structure that was not even attracting tourists. When Mr Robinson died, Matiba flew to London to meet his wife, but she was not interested in a property in Kenya. With Mr Matiba was his accountant friend, Stephen Smith – a son of his father’s teacher, James Stephen Smith, at Alliance High School. It was his association with Alliance that saw the birth of Alliance Investment Ltd, in which Mr Matiba and Mr Smith were the shareholders. HEADACHE “Jadini was a real headache…the management there acted as if they were the real owners of the hotel,” Matiba recalled in his book, Aiming High. Matiba fired the entire lot and employed professionals as he and Mr Smith started renovating Jadini. It was finally opened by President Jomo Kenyatta. Matiba then invested in Naro Moru River Lodge and Africana Sea Lodge – the flagship of his empire. “Then, in 1974, we thought of a secondary school and bought land in Karen, where we established Hillcrest Secondary School. We then got involved in Hillcrest Preparatory School,” wrote Matiba. Soon, he had invested in various companies, among them Carbacid Investments Ltd, Carbacid (Co2) Ltd, Alliance Investments Ltd, Alliance Developments Ltd, Alliance nominees Ltd, Alliance Hotels Ltd, Kenya Nurseries Ltd, Orchids Kenya Ltd, Flowers of Kenya Ltd, and Wangu Investments Ltd.He also had considerable shares at East African Breweries. BEER DISTRIBUTION It was Mr Matiba who helped his former boss at Home Affairs, Daniel arap Moi, set up a beer distribution firm, Rift Valley Distributors. At Carbacid, Mr Matiba became one of the ...
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