Kenneth Matiba’s Life as a Business Magnate
He was first a business tycoon and among first few Kenya’s youngest indigenous millionaires during his time, before he became the unfaltering politician who he was famously known for since he fought for re-introduction of multi-party democracy in Kenya.
The celebrated political figure who has been eulogised by many public figures in the country including President Uhuru Kenyatta, passed on in a Nairobi hospital after ailing for some time.
Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba started his career in his 20s when he became the first indigenous African permanent secretary for Education and later served as PS for Commerce under minister Mwai Kibaki.
He later quit to join East African Breweries as first African executive chairman. Thereafter, he added to his many firsts by resigning as a cabinet minister during the Moi Era.
Being a shrewd businessman and investor, he massively invested in hotel industry especially after gaining experience in the trade as the chairman of Kenya Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) when he was the permanent secretary for commerce.
He began with developing properties and selling them in partnership of George Robinson,, marking his entry into big-time business.
They later bought Jadini Hotel which seemed neglected and barely attracted tourists. Robinson died and since his family was not interested in the property, Matiba formed Alliance investment Ltd with Stephen Smith where they were both shareholders. Smith was a son of his Matiba’s teacher, at Alliance High School, thus the origin of Alliance holdings.
Together, they reinstated Jadini by renovating and employing fresh professionals and it finally opened by President Jomo Kenyatta.
He extended his investment wings to Naro Moru River Lodge and Africana Sea Lodge which was considered the flagship of his empire.
Matiba’ entepreneural spirit tempted him to invest in education in 1974 and they proceeded to buy a piece of land in Karen and established the prestigious Hillcrest Group of Schools starting with Secondary School and Hillcrest Preparatory School came after.
He also had interest in Media and invested in The People Newspaper which was recently sold to Kenyatta family affiliated company in 2011.
Subsequently, he invested in numerous corporations including 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 and had shares in East African Breweries.
Kenneth became one of the majority shareholders together with Maina Wanjigi, father to businessman Jimi Wanjigi, at Carbacid.
Earlier on in 1967, he tried his hands on starting his own airline to airlift his farm produce abroad and even got the government to sanction his idea. Unluckily, the Civil Aviation Board denied him licence. He considered farming a hobby which he tried on different crops and even reared pigs in one of the largest African pig producers in the country.
In a trio with Charles Njonjo and the late John Michuki, Matiba bought a British-made aircraft but their project collapsed after news reached a Tanzanian Paper and Kenya was accused of registering its own airline attempting to tumble East African Airways which saw the aircraft flown back to England.
He lost a huge chunk of his investment when Barclays Bank demanded the settlement of debts exceeding Sh1.8 billion since early 2000.
At Carbacid Limited, the family also lost control and sold their shares in the company worth over Sh400 million.
Hillcrest schools got a new owner after being put under receivership in 2005 due to Sh620 million owned to Barclays Bank.
However, Wangu Investment, a public company that he helped establish in Timau is still thriving and Matiba will be remembered for it.