Heirs of Murang’a tycoons fight: President Uhuru Kenyatta had a rather unusual message for mourners who attended the burial of billionaire businessman Kamau Thayu Kabugi in February.
He cautioned heirs of wealthy patriarchs to shun court wrangles and instead share their inheritance quietly, away from the public eye.
“These court battles are bad publicity for both the families and their businesses. It is not the best way to appreciate the hard work of those patriarchs who built these empires and my take is that most of these battles are as a result of greed and lack of mutual respect in these families,” said the President in Kiharu Constituency, Murang’a County.
The county is known for its famous sons who turned from rags to riches through grit and hard work in Nairobi’s equally famous Kirinyaga, Grogan and River Roads and the Nyamakima areas.
The Murang’a businessmen trace their wealth to lucrative trade in commodities, real estate, the stock market, financial and oil industries.
The deaths of the pioneers have, however, heralded serious court battles as widows, children and in some cases mistresses, among others, showed up staking claims to the estates of the deceased.
Heirs of Murang’a tycoons fight
Some cases have dragged in court for years as the multi-billion shilling empires that the patriarchs laboured to build waste away. Mr Kenyatta warned that wealth, accumulated over the years, could be finished in a short span due to the family wrangles.
He said he was concerned over the increasing cases of succession battles pitting members of wealthy families, noting that assembling an estate worth billions of shillings was not a simple task as it took a lot of suffering, toiling and skipping comfort.
Family wrangles are indeed commonplace across the country especially given the high number of intestate deaths, but Murang’a stands out for its relatively high number of wealthy Independence-era entrepreneurs who have died in the past two decades.
Some of the late business tycoons from Murang’a who have left behind empires include former Starehe MP Gerishon Kirima, the late Internal Security minister John Michuki, businessman and founder-CEO of Equity Bank John Kagema and businessman-turned politician Kenneth Matiba.
The late John Kagema, who was a businessman and founder-CEO of Equity Bank. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
JOHN MWANGI KAGEMA
He was the founding chief executive officer of Equity Building Society – now known as Equity Bank Group. The reclusive businessman died in December last year but his wealth is now subject to a legal battle after two women moved to court, claiming part of the estate.
Mr Kagema was mostly known as the owner of the luxurious Enashipai Resort and Spa in Naivasha.
Serah Wanjiru Ngugi moved to court soon after widow Beatrice Wanjiku together with her sons, James Kagema and Daniel Wamahihu, filed a succession case at the Family Division of the High Court in Nairobi.
She has sought to join the case stating that the other family has deliberately left her out of the process. The woman has listed 21 companies, an insurance policy, at least 118 plots of land across the country, a mining company, and at least 19 motor vehicles as some of the properties Mr Kagema owned.
Another woman, Ms Esther Njeri and her 29-year-old son, Abraham James Gitangu Mwangi, later showed up staking a claim on the tycoon’s properties.
The no-nonsense Cabinet minister left behind a huge fortune for his children. He died of a heart attack on February 21, 2012. He was aged 80. All appeared well until November last year when Ms Yvonne Wanja, the last born of the Michukis, moved to court blaming her two siblings who were given powers by the High Court to administer the estate of having accumulated huge debts at Nairobi Hotels Limited, which owns a big share of the Windsor Golf Hotels and Country Club.
Ms Wanja fears that the debts have reached an alarming level, and sought an order from the court for them to be settled.
The former Kangema MP had invested in real estate, hotel industry, insurance and farming besides having huge sums in bank accounts.
Heirs Murang’a tycoons.
Ms Wanja is seeking a sixth of her father’s estate. She says that her late father’s estate has not been valued to date, and that the administrators and beneficiaries of the estate estimated to be worth Sh65 billion should be reconciled since they are at loggerheads.
Claiming her siblings have failed to manage the estate as required by law, she now wants her portion of the estate and the transfer of a title deed for a house in Windsor Park without any cost implication on her part as those were the wishes of her father.
Wanja claims her siblings have not gone back to court to have the letters of grant confirmed.
The then Finance minister, John Michuki, addresses a press conference of African finance ministers on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington on October 11, 2008. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP
The family of the late Stephen Kirubi has been engaged in an ugly in-and-out-court drama for the control of his vast estate valued at Sh2 billion. The most fought for property in the saga is a 150-acre piece of land in Maragua Sub-County where six of his seven children are fighting against one for the control of the estate.
Mr Kirubi passed on in 2006 and later his wife also died worsening the saga that is still dragging in the courts.
The late opposition politician’s family has also had a stint in the courts.
According to court documents, Mr Matiba, a father of five who died aged 85, left property valued at Sh732 million without a written will.
His widow, Edith Wanjiru Matiba, daughter Susan Wanjiku and son Raymond Matiba are now seeking authority to assume control of the estate.
The three argue that they had the consent of Matiba’s other children to take care of the properties.
Gerishon Kirima is pictured at a balcony of his house in Kitisiru on August 7, 2010. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Mr Kirima died in December 2010 while undergoing treatment in South Africa, after being in a coma for one week.
His death sparked a series of court battles as some of his children fought for the control of his vast estate. They faced off with Kirima’s younger wife, Teresia Wairimu.
The late businessman’s estate is estimated to have been valued at more than Sh100 billion.
Heirs of Murang’a tycoons fight
After years of court cases, the family came to an agreement in October 2013 for the administration of the estate and eventual distribution.
Justice Isacc Lenaola, then High Court judge, believed he had brought to an end the bitter family dispute, remarking that he had laboured for five years as he tried to finalise the distribution of the estate.
The Judge was forced to nullify two wills presented before him by the opposing parties and in the end, appointed Mrs Wairimu (widow) and Anne Kirima (daughter) as the co-administrators of the estate. He ordered them to move with haste and conclude distribution of the estate. The matter is still pending in court
By SAM KIPLAGAT and By MWANGI MUIRURI