Kenya's prolific businessman Chris Kirubi dies at 80

Monday June 14 2021
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Businessman Chris Kirubi. File | NMG

By Daily Nation

Kenyan businessman and industrialist Chris Kirubi has passed away, his family has confirmed.

His family said he died on Monday after a long battle with cancer. He was 80 years old.

"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," a statement from the family said.

The statement said more details would be released in coming days. 

In 2020, Kirubi opened up about his cancer battle in an interview with Business Daily, after images of him looking frail circulated on social media.

"One thing I’ve come to discover is that in the end you’re alone. Your friends may love you, but eventually you have to deal with your sickness personally. You think about the past, the things that you could have done, the things that you have not done, and what you can do to compensate for things you ignored. It is a time of reflection. And prayers from friends do help, a lot," he said at the time.

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"Being in a good hospital, with good doctors, adds a certain value to your life. I was just wondering what we can do to make sure, in a poor country like Kenya, everybody receives the best treatment possible rather than mass treatment. Because to tell you the truth, if I had been here maybe by now I would be long gone."

He also spoke about death, referring to it as rest from the daily hustles of life.

"Death is rest. A rest from daily hustles. This is something that is irreversible. You’re born, you grow, you die. In the end, it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter the age or what you do to try and elongate your life."

Before that, in a video clip he shared on social media, Kirubi urged members of the public to go frequent screenings to ensure they are safe while at the same time reminding them that the deadly disease can be cured, but not by prayers alone.

Tributes

Among leaders who sent condolence messages to the family was Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress.

"My condolences go to the family of Chris Kirubi. He was an illustrious businessman, who spoke candidly on matters of national importance and the economy. A true patriot who told you as it was; without blinking. Over and above that he was witty, humorous and an avid golfer," he said via Twitter.

Raila Odinga, of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), said: "Chris Kirubi was my friend and one to many others, and a mentor to even more. He was a dedicated entrepreneur and philanthropist, who helped scores of Kenyans over time. My heartfelt condolences go to his family, friends and all those whose lives he touched. Rest in peace, Chris."

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said "death has robbed our country of a hardworking and industrious entrepreneur, who impacted positively and touched the lives of many people".

Prolific businessman

Kirubi was one of Kenya’s most prolific businessmen. He held key leadership positions in several companies, including a non-executive directorship at NSE-listed Centum Investments and chairmanship at Haco Industries and Capital Media Group, among others.

He headed the board of Coca-Cola Nairobi Bottlers, which accounted for 47 per cent of all beverage sales in Kenya at one point.

He also had an extensive real estate portfolio that includes International House in the Nairobi CBD. Through Centum, he had interests in property developments including Two Rivers in Gigiri and the Pearl Marina Project in Uganda.

His chequered career as an entrepreneur, however, was not without controversy. In 2008, he was charged along with former Uchumi managing director Kennedy Thairu and board members Francis Emmanuel Oyugi, Joseph Munyiri Munene, Isaac Awuondo and Nigel Ralph Pavit with selling the retail store’s Aga Khan Walk branch to Allgate Ltd, a private company, for Sh147 million. They were accused of leasing back the landmark building to Uchumi in 2004 for a monthly rent of Sh1.7 million.

However, a city magistrate, Gilbert Mutembei, acquitted them in 2011, saying they had no case to answer on the charge of conspiracy to defraud Uchumi.

He served as a general manager of Kenatco in the 1960s and early 1970s. Decades later, he was part of a management team picked by the government to run Kenatco in 1993 at a time when it was recovering from bankruptcy. 

The company, however, was placed under receivership in 1996, with Kirubi saying he was personally pained by the company’s woes, adding he was also frustrated and left the transport firm due to “those other people who were stealing from us.”

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