In the recent past, the business section of the media has been awash with news of blue-chip companies that have been changing CEOs like clothes. One of the country’s top companies, Kenya Airways, has gone from Mbuvi Ngunze to Sebastian Mikosz to now Allan Kivaluka, all within a couple of years. Kenya Power has had four leaders in the past five years, most of them departing after being charged with fraud at the monopoly. However, there does exist a group of seven billionaires who have stayed at the helm of their companies for very long, and continue to wield immense power and influence.
Flame Tree’s founder, Heril Bangera, has the longest run of 32 years, followed by Car & General’s Vijay Gidoomal and TPS Eastern Africa’s Mahmud Jan Mohamed, who have served for 25 years and at least 24 years respectively.
Others are DTB Group’s Nasim Devji (20 years), Co-operative Bank’s Gideon Muriuki (20 years), Equity Group’s James Mwangi (17 years) and Crown Paints’ Rakesh Rao (16 years).
Mr Bangera founded Flame Tree in 1989 and maintains an 84 percent stake in the fast-moving consumer goods manufacturer, securing his CEO post.
DTB and TPS Serena are majority-owned by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), whose portfolio companies have smaller CEO turnover in general.
Mr Muriuki and Mr Mwangi are credited with the growth of their respective banks to the top of the industry in less than two decades.
Co-op Bank is the third-largest bank by assets while Equity recently ascended to the pole position, relegating KCB Group to second place on the back of aggressive regional acquisitions and suspension of dividends.
Mr Muriuki and Mr Mwangi each retain minority stakes in their companies and are expected to continue leading the firms into the future, riding on the above-average returns shareholders have booked via dividends and capital gains.
The banks have not officially disclosed succession plans but it is understood that their leaders have the latitude to stay as long as they choose to.
“The earliest maybe on my own volition that I would ask to retire is when I turn 75,” Mr Mwangi said in 2019.
“I have another 20 years. I take consolation from one of my role models, Warren Buffett who is still chief executive at the range of 87.”
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