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Billionaire Chatur puts Sh76bn estate on sale

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By BRIAN WASUNA
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By JOHN KAMAU
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Of all the Kenyan billionaires — and they are a handful — reclusive businessman Madatali Chatur could be the least known.

Although he shuns publicity these days, he was in the 80s a common face in the media but as money, power, and wealth followed him, he became the invisible billionaire.

With a fortune that runs into billions of shillings, his decision to sell all his Kenyan properties, estimated to be worth Sh76.99 billion, must have caught everyone by surprise — but not those who know him.

“He was not getting well with some government people,” a source who knows him told us without getting into details.

Whether he has seen warning signs ahead in the real estate market or he is escaping from uncertainty is not clear.

Some pundits see this dramatic decision as either a vote of no confidence in the economy or a feeling that he can no longer survive the changing political atmosphere.

For over three decades, Mr Chatur built an enviable empire with several properties on hundreds of acres spread across the country, which he claims, rose from an electronic shop that he opened in River Road, Nairobi, in 1977.

During the days of Kanu, Mr Chatur was a blue-eyed boy of the regime and hobnobbed with the party mandarins, power brokers and security chiefs — including some former police commissioners who were on his speed dial.

He would also be part of Asian delegations to State House, contributing money President Daniel Moi’s projects and was a known philanthropist.

As his networks grew and wealth ballooned, Mr Chatur consolidated his portfolio under a group that boasts 16 companies, all of which own prime land in Nairobi, Nakuru, Machakos, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale and Turkana counties.

Little had been heard about Mr Chatur until February this year when Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter was arrested alongside Mr Arthur Ingolo Sakwa and “a Mr Madatali Chatur” for what the Central Bank of Kenya and the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit said was presenting a forged 90-day Treasury Bills dated 1990.

But the Chatur Group of Companies said the arrested “Mr Madat Suburali Chatur” was not related to their chairman, Mr Madat Saburali Chatur.

At the moment, the actual reasons for the looming sale remain unknown, as efforts to get an explanation from Mr Chatur have been futile.

The businessman told the Daily Nation on Saturday last week that he was out of town and would get in touch once back.

He has since not answered calls or responded to text messages.

Investigations by the Daily Nation have however revealed that the businessman, reputed to be one of the wealthiest in Kenya, has land and buildings valued at Sh76.99 billion.

Each of his 16 companies own prime properties, while some of the real estate is registered in his own name.

The Chatur Group mainly deals in real estate, but it has now emerged that the tycoon also has interests in the agriculture sector, owning two farms in Kwale and Malindi measuring 32,499 acres.

He co-owns most of the companies with his eldest son — Rahim.

But even as Mr Chatur looks to cash in on his vast empire, City Hall has marked two of his properties for demolition, arguing that the billionaire businessman acquired building approvals illegally.

City Hall in August gave notice to Mr Chatur’s tenants at New Muthaiga Mall and a car bazaar the tycoon owns in Gigiri that it would be bringing down the constructions.

Mr Chatur has since sued through Gemini Properties (New Muthaiga Mall) and Scorpion Properties (Gigiri Mall).

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Judicial review division judge Pauline Nyamweya last Wednesday transferred the suit to the lands court.

“Neither the applicants nor their tenants were afforded a fair administrative action before this decision was made since no prior notice was given of the decision nor a hearing was afforded to the applicant or its tenant.

“There is no claim by the director of physical planning in the enforcement notice or any iota of evidence that the herein attached approvals of the development plans were acquired through fraudulent means or are forgeries,” Mr Chatur’s son Rahim says in court papers.

And adds: “The applicants’ buildings have been financed by a bank facility which is being paid to date. The loss of tenants will lead to foreclosure of the applicants’ property, which will cause substantial loss and irreparable harm,”

His real estate interests are spread across commercial, residential and hospitality facilities.

His commercial buildings include Mithoo House, Diamond Plaza, Diamond Plaza II, Hope International, Ngara Shopping Complex, Simba Centre, Mariam Arcade, Likoni Mall, Trust Building and New Muthaiga Shopping Mall.

The residential buildings include Langata Paradise Apartments, Bahari Dhow Villas, and houses in Nyari Estate and Fourth Parklands Avenue.

His hospitality arm has the Concord Hotel and Suites, Mara Concord, Shelly Beach Resort and the Cloud Hotel.

The agriculture side has land in Lokichogio, Maanzoni in Machakos, Syokimau, Malindi, Mai Mahiu and Mombasa.

Leo Investments is perhaps the billionaire’s most successful venture, owning several high value properties such as Diamond Plaza (Sh20 billion), named after his late brother, Concord Hotel (Sh3 billion), Mithoo House (Sh2 billion) on River Road, the Mara Concord (Sh700 million), Ngara Shopping Complex (Sh480 million) among others.

Diamond Plaza, aside from letting space to several shops, also hosts the Chatur Group offices.

The businessman’s wealth has not been without controversy, as he has been a defendant in a litany of court cases filed against him and his firms over deals gone sour.

At least twice, Mr Chatur has been found to be in contempt of court in property battles, which has seen him fined.

In 2010, High Court Judge Ruth Sitati fined Mr Chatur and his son Rahim Sh300,000 after finding that they disobeyed her order stopping works on the Sh3 billion New Muthaiga Shopping Mall.

The stop order had been issued following a suit by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which was investigating how the land ended up in the hands of private developers, having been listed as public property.

Muthaiga residents had gone to court seeking to have the construction of the mall stopped, saying the land had been earmarked for a nursery school and a clinic.

“The public plot was allocated to Gemini Properties with a new land reference number being 209/9295 in place of the original 209/8000/84, subject however to certain special conditions and in particular condition number five, which was to the effect that the suit property would be used for a clinic and day nursery school,” court papers say.

The resident argued: “The allocation of the suit property consisted of a public utility, was illegal and accordingly Gemini Properties holds the suit property in trust for the citizens of Kenya and for the residents of New Muthaiga in particular.”

Justice Sitati, who also presided over the claim by Muthaiga residents, ruled that only the Attorney General could sue to recover public land, which allowed Mr Chatur to start construction of the mall.

Mr Chatur’s family owns New Muthaiga Shopping Mall through Gemini Properties. Five years later, another High Court judge, Olga Sewe, found Mr Chatur in contempt.

The businessman’s Chatur Properties Limited had kicked out a tenant at its Simba Centre on River Road and attached goods to clear a debt.

Ex-Sec Printers had contested the debt and obtained an order barring attachment of its assets.



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Politics of deceit: Anatomy of MoUs built on backstabbing, empty words

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Just like prior to 2002, Kenya is on the cusp of a regime change in 2022 hence the heightened political deal-making.

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Rafiki Microfinance in fresh crisis amid internal fall out – The Informer

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A deep pocketed investor is mulling walking away from a possible takeover of scandal hit Rafiki Microfinance bank which is under the management of Kenya’s deposit insurer, the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) amid internal management wrangling at the bank pitting rival camps, The Informer has established.

Those close to the foreign investors say the investors are likely to end possible buyout plans after reports of internal fighting and possible cover up of financial mismanagement by new management at the loss making micro-financier.

Rafiki -the third largest microfinance institution in Kenya – is currently over-sighted by KDIC which is headed by KDIC chief executive Mohamud Ahmed as the company hunts for a strategic investor to buy out the Chase bank shareholding.

The fights are likely to attract the eye of Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) investigators which has been keen on reining in possible bank collapses, after the fall of Chase Bank, The Informer has learnt.

The troubled Rafiki, which was owned by the collapsed Chase Bank, is in the middle of a transition and is seeking to recruit a chief executive officer (CEO) to replace its former Managing Director Ken Obimbo who recently left the post.

Obimbo who has been CEO since 2015 exited the company in March this year in controversial circumstances after a near six year stint.

Obimbo took over from Daniel Mavindu currently serving as the lender’s chairman.

Rafiki is working with an executive headhunter on the CEO search.

“The CEO will be expected to provide effective strategic leadership and direction to the management team with a view to accomplish the mandate of the bank,” said the firm involved in the search in a notice published in newspapers on April 16.

“Minimum qualifications (include) at least ten years of direct experience in financial services, seven of which should have been in top management positions in a Microfinance bank or similar environment.”

Ahead of the expected corner office hiring Rafiki has tapped its Chief Finance Officer (CFO) Paul Karanja Macharia to the helm of the CEO post in acting capacity.

Macharia has previously worked at Equity Bank and Chase Bank (Finance Departments) and was a Finance Manager at Chase Bank before joining Rafiki in 2016.

The roles were on the spotlight after the collapse of Chase Bank.

He will be acting CEO from 1st April 2021 for 90 days as the search for a substantive CEO is undertaken.

Amid the search for new CEO, the microfinancier is recording a string of high profile exits.

Insiders contend that Macharia has a reputation for bullying and harassing staff who approach him for approvals and is widely feared.

Macharia’s appointment has compounded the internal wrangling as employees form different camps to defend their roles.

“He enjoys being feared and mistreats staff in Finance Department leading to high number of staff exit in the department.” Another source intimated.

Under his brief role, the bank has been hit by high profile exits. Some say he has targeted non-Kikuyu staff at the bank in what raises the specter of possible tribalism at the micro-financier.

Among those who have faced the purge include former long serving Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs Zak Syengo who is among the senior executives who have left the company in recent weeks under Macharia’s brief reign.

Syengo who is a close ally of the current chairman Daniel Mavindu and a former Strathmore alumni has resigned but is serving notice pending his exit.

Mavindu is a well-connected business man who still has vast interests in the lender does not see eye to eye with the acting CEO.

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It is alleged it is on this basis that the acting CEO Macharia has initiated a purge of senior level managers deemed not to be in his camp.

Other high profile exits include that of Derrick Lwatati who was the General Manager – Business Development.

Lwatati has been moved by Macharia to Rafiki Homes (a subsidiary of Rafiki dealing with development and sale of properties) as General Manager.

The move is widely viewed as a demotion considering the standing of the two companies and Rafiki homes not yet being operational and a continuation of the purge of non-Kikuyus.

Other high profile exits by Heads of Departments (HoDs) are expected at the bank in the near future.

At the centre of the mass exits are allegations that staff including HODs are being intimidated by the Acting MD and are fearing for their jobs.

Prevailing atmosphere among staff, The Informer, understands is that of fear and uncertainty staff are going through work motions just to protect their jobs.

HOD’s are said to be targeted and victimised and anyone deemed not to be in the CFO/ Acting MD’s camp is targeted for elimination.

Our investigations have established that the Head of Credit is on suspension, Head of Marketing has resigned, about 3 or 4 other HOD’s are already being targeted for suspension.

“The CFO/Acting MD is unprofessional and on a wide scale witch-hunt campaign. How many more staff must undergo this kind of injustice,” says part of a petition being filed for presentation to the National Assembly by workers.

“If this injustice is happening to senior managers then what is to expected to happen to the rank and file will this not adversely affect productivity,” adds the petition which is to be copied to KDIC, CBK and other regulators.

Workers have asked the CBK, KDIC, and the Rafiki Board that is led by Mavindu to address the complaints before it’s too late.

“How is the Board correcting these irregularities, are staff safe to air views contrary to those of the CFO/ Acting MD without fear of victimization,” says the petition.

The disputes have raised concerns among investors seeing that Rafiki’s parent company collapsed under duress.

Rafiki Microfinance Bank was a subsidiary of Chase Bank and launched its operations in the Kenyan market in 2011 targeting the microfinance industry.

Chase Bank was placed under receivership on April 7, 2016 following a run on deposits after reports of liquidity problems spread online.

Chase Bank was re-opened on April 27, 2016 under the management of the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC).

Mauritian lender SBM Bank in 2018 carved out and bought 75 per cent of certain assets and liabilities from Chase Bank in what was considered as cherry-picking ‘good assets.’

Rafiki was a subsidiary of Chase bank but was not bought by SBM.

Rafiki has 19 branches spread across 11 counties in Kenya.

The fights have threatened to derail multibillion ongoing programs by the lender.

Jubilee Insurance in 2015 inked a bancassurance deal with Rafiki Microfinance Bank to distribute life insurance products in a bid to further boost its presence in the country.

Jubilee Insurance CEO Patrick Tumbo said then the partnership with Rafiki will help in improving access to life insurance products among Kenyans.

“This partnership will enable Rafiki Microfinance Bank customers to access our life products with ease from their banker across the country,” Tumbo added then.

Germany’s insurance and asset management firm Allianz which serves more than 100 million retail and corporate customers in more than 70 countries worldwide recently completed the acquisition of 66 percent stake (1,522,622 ordinary shares) in Jubilee General Insurance Company (Kenya), leaving the holding company (JHL) with 34 percent of the shares.

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June Ruto Engaged To Nigerian Professor In A Low-key Ceremony –

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June Ruto, daughter to Deputy President Willian Ruto on Saturday, May 8, 2021 got engaged to the love of his life, Alexander Ezenagu.

Alexander Ezenagu is a Nigerian who works as an assistant Law Professor at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar.

According to Nigerian politician and businessman Osita Chidokevent who attended the event at Ruto’s Karen home, the event was “small and simple, and family-focused”.

“His position as Deputy President was relegated as he played the role of a father. Hon. Ruto and his wife (Racheal) were great hosts. I regaled them with Igbo customs, proverbs, and more. They are looking forward to visiting Ani Igbo to eat roasted yam and red oil. They also want to see Umuaro and Umuofia as described by Chinua Achebe. Well, I told them that visiting Obosi and Alex’s village Uli will suffice,” posted Chidokevent on Facebook.

Read: Junet Castigates DP Ruto For Proposing Further Amendments To BBI Bill

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Chidokevent says that he was the chief negotiator for the brideprice, which has already been agreed upon.

“I was the negotiator at the bride price settlement ceremony. We haggled, we negotiated and at the end, we agreed on how many cows would be a fair price for the hands of June,” he added.

It is not yet clear when the wedding will be held, but it might not be far away.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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