Chris Kirubi: Curtain falls on Kenya’s reclusive tycoon who died a bachelor

Chris Kirubi

Tycoon rode 1st class, always on the fast lane

By Ken Wafula in Nairobi

The death of business tycoon Chris Kirubi after a long battle with colon cancer is probably one of the most devastating news to hit Kenya’s private sector this year.

Kirubi, one of the most eligible bachelors in Kenya, has died a billionaire and undisputed private sector icon. The tycoon had little time for modesty and frivolity but often flaunted his massive wealth. His frank and at times insensitive remarks appeared to have ruffled many feathers. The businessman once told off critics for faulting his “expensive” designer suits and ties on which he claimed to spend Kshs 1million.

Kirubi further declared on a TV talk show that he drove only “custom made” top of the range vehicles. When challenged on how much money he had in the pocket at any one given time, he openly pulled out Ksh. 250,000 bundle as pocket change.

Kirubi was all over business circles investing, buying or launching products and appeared to have spent little time on his family. His family background appeared shrouded in mystery even as his business empire grew by leaps and bounds

At one time when attempts were made by his critics to link him to the collapse of the Uchumi supermarket, a furious Kirubi would hear none of it. He said he was a real estate success story who could not stoop too low as to pocket the alleged Kshs 5 million bribe his critics had accused him of obtaining, he claimed that was small money “coffee cash” he said. For Kenyans battling the high cost of living this is the kind of money they will die only dreaming about.

Kirubi was all over business circles investing, buying or launching products and appeared to have spent little time on his family. His family background appeared shrouded in mystery even as his business empire grew by leaps and bounds. Kirubi’s multi-billion shilling flagship includes the massive 2 Rivers real estate in Ruaka said to have even rattled President Uhuru Kenyatta into investing in a similar one.

The proud owner of the multi-storied International Life house in Nairobi’s CBD where he based his headquarters, Kirubi had curved a larger than life image despite his small physical stature.

The “small” man with a big “ego” was often a no-nonsense public speaker given to scathing sarcasm on his critics. His demise sets the stage for the battle of his multi-billion shilling empire not helped by his largely reclusive if not eccentric lifestyle, having hardly been seen in public with his spouse he divorced decades ago, or the two daughters.

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