Nicholas Biwott, a name synonymous with wealth and power in Kenya, was a man of many facets. Considered one of the wealthiest men in Africa in his time, Biwott’s business empire was vast and diverse, spanning various sectors such as oil, banking, real estate, and agriculture.
Many know him as the former owner of the iconic Yaya Centre mall that was recently purchased by the Kantaria family.
Nicholas Biwott Early Life
Biwott was born in 1940 in Chebior Village, Keiyo District, in Elgeyo Marakwet. He was the son of Cheserem Biwott, a successful farmer and entrepreneur.
He attended local primary schools and later Kapsabet High School. He then went on to study at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where he graduated with a degree in commerce. He was the first Kenyan to study in Australia.
His business acumen was evident from an early age. As a young boy, he worked alongside his father in their fruit and vegetable business.
Nicholas Biwott later took a loan from a local bank to run a side hustle of selling eggs and other poultry products. This venture laid the foundation for his establishment of ABC Foods in the 1960s, which dealt with animal feeds and products.
His business empire began to take shape in the late 1960s when, at the age of 29, he acquired the Eldoret Town International Harvester (IH) dealership.
This dealership became the foundation of his Lima Group of Companies, which grew to become one of the largest conglomerates in Kenya.
In the 1970s, Biwott began to invest in real estate. He acquired large tracts of land in Nairobi and other major cities in Kenya. He also invested in various buildings, such as the iconic Yaya Centre.
In the 1980s, his business interests expanded to include manufacturing, oil, and banking. He acquired several manufacturing companies, including a steel mill and a textile factory.
He also became a major shareholder in Kenol-Kobil, a chain of petrol stations in Kenya and Uganda.
Biwott also held massive shares in Safaricom, Kenya’s largest telecommunications provider. Additionally, he co-owned Trans National Bank and the Nakuru-based National Milling Corporation with former president Moi.
By the 1990s, He was one of the wealthiest men in Kenya, and his businesses employed thousands of people.
His strategy was simple yet effective: purchase failing or small businesses and reinvest in them.
Biwott’s influence was not limited to the business world. He served in eight ministerial positions in former President Daniel Arap Moi’s government, including as Minister for Finance from 1982 to 1988.
Considered as Moi’s right-hand man, his political influence undoubtedly played a role in his business success.
In 2013, a Nigerian financial magazine ranked him among the top 50 wealthiest men in Africa, with a net worth of sh 100 billion.
Nicholas Biwott Strange Lifestyles
Despite his success, Biwott was a man of strange habits. For instance, he reportedly never owned a phone.
According to one report by The Standard, whenever he wanted to make a call, he would borrow a phone from someone, make the call, and delete the number. After the call, he would compensate the person handsomely.
Many would expect a man of his caliber to own several high-end vehicles. Surprisingly, Biwott liked to travel via taxi.
He would board a taxi and exit after traveling for only a few meters, then pay the driver the equivalent of over a day’s lease.
Many speculated that these strange habits were caused by security concerns.
Naturally, his extraordinary wealth was often a subject of controversy. Many critics argued that he had acquired it through corrupt means.
The Kroll report leaked in 2007, alleged that Nicholas Biwott owned properties in Israel and Australia, among other places.
However, these allegations were dismissed by his lawyer, Desterio Oyatsi, who also served as the executor of his will.
Nicholas Biwott’s family sells iconic Yaya Centre
The new owner of the iconic Yaya Centre in Nairobi is a consortium of private investors led by the Rasik Kantaria family. The deal, which was reportedly worth billions of shillings, marks the end of an era for the Biwott family, which had owned the mall for over three decades.
The Kantaria family is one of the wealthiest families in Kenya, with interests in a variety of businesses, including hospitality, real estate, and banking. The family owns a number of other high-profile properties in Nairobi, including the Radisson Blu Arboretum Hotel and the Yaya Centre Apartments and Hotel.
The acquisition of the Yaya Centre is a major coup for the Kantaria family and is seen as a sign of their growing ambitions in the Kenyan market. The mall is one of the most popular shopping destinations in Nairobi and is home to over 100 stores and restaurants. The Kantaria family is expected to invest heavily in the mall to improve its offerings and attract even more visitors.
The sale of the Yaya Centre is also a significant development for the Biwott family. The late Nicholas Biwott was one of the most powerful and influential figures in Kenya for many years. He amassed a vast fortune during his lifetime, but his family has been struggling to maintain their wealth in recent years. The sale of Yaya Centre is a major financial windfall for the family and will help them to consolidate their assets.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Yaya Centre under new ownership. The Kantaria family has a good track record of managing successful businesses, but they will face some challenges in revitalizing the mall. Yaya Centre has been facing stiff competition from newer malls in recent years and has seen a decline in foot traffic. The Kantaria family will need to invest heavily in the mall to make it a more attractive destination for shoppers.