While you may deign to feel sorry for the child that he was, his early work experience formed the building blocks of the astute tycoon he would become. It helped him develop self reliance, confidence, discipline, time management, transparency, and gifted him with a wealth of experience.
Upon graduation, he worked for Shell, as a salesman, selling and repairing gas cylinders. According to him, the pennies he earned from this job could not have bought anyone dinner.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, he worked as an Administrator at Kenatco, a government-owned transportation company, and around 1971, he began buying decayed properties in Nairobi, renovating the buildings, and then re-selling them for a profit or renting them out. He also began acquiring strategic pieces of land in and around Nairobi, and proceeded to erect rental residential and commercial properties on them, using loans from Kenyan financial institutions.
His foray into real estate property development was timely and strategic, and he made a killing. He is one of Kenya’s wealthiest businessmen with a fortune estimated at $300 million, and also one of the richest men in Africa. His property management company, International House Limited (IHL), owns and manages various residential and commercial buildings in Nairobi and he owns Nairobi’s landmark International House building, one of the city’s longest standing and most prestigious commercial properties.
There was no stopping him as he built a diversified and very successful business empire with perhaps one low point; a foray into the paint business. But that only taught him some more ways not to fail. “But I learnt: you fail, you get up and you walk. You move on. I had the proceeds from the assets and some land that I still hold, so it wasn’t a total disaster,”he stated in an interview with Ventures Africa.
He is presently the chairman and a shareholder of Haco Tiger Brands (a joint venture with Tiger Brands SA, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange). He is also CEO of Capital FM and holds large equity stakes in Nairobi Stock Exchange listed investment firm Centum, UAP Insurance and the Kenyan franchise of DHL. Furthermore, he is a shareholder in Nairobi Bottlers, a bottling franchise for Coca-Cola.
How did he make the leap from poor, orphan boy to having ‘wealthiest’ as an appellate to his name?‘Determination, focus, never giving up and believing in myself,‘ he asserted in an online interview with ‘HowWeMadeItInAfrica.’
Did I mention that this very busy 73-year old business tycoon and philanthropist who is also a Disc Jockey at his radio station, Capital FM and reportedly one of the most social media savvy business men in Africa is Chris Kirubi? He even makes cameo appearances in Kenyan hip-hop videos and movies.
Chris Kirubi utilises social media to provide free online mentoring for young Africans. “In fact, I have made it my life’s mission to belong to them. For me this means understanding how young people think, what matters to them and seeing how best I can influence positive change. The truth is that ‘youth’ remains a most sought-after commodity – but it is also a very trying time because they have not quite concretised their identity. I am passionate about inspiring them to become who they want to be, in line with what matters to them. There are no limits to what they can perceive and consequently achieve.”
Fame, fortune and flamboyance are well within his grasp, but he maintains that his biggest success is transiting from poverty to become a job creator, providing opportunities for other people. For Chris Kirubi, “My success is Kenya’s success.” Did I add that he has no retirement plans whatsoever? I guess when you love what you do, you are in no hurry to retire at 40 as Robert Kiyosaki would have us do.