After Charles Mugane Njonjo was declared dead by his doctor at 5am yesterday, his body was moved to Lee Funeral Home briefly before being cremated at 10.30am.
Lee Funeral Home was not just a preferred funeral home for independent Kenya’s first Attorney General, it was also one of Njonjo’s numerous business interests.
The deplorable manner in which the bodies of JM Kariuki and criminal lawyer SM Otieno were preserved at City Mortuary, spurred Njonjo to approach John Stuart Lee with the proposal of building a funeral parlour at Nairobi Hospital.
By then, Njonjo was the chair of Nairobi Hospital.
“So we built the current Lee Funeral Home within the grounds of the hospital in 1987 and we opened in 1988 during the 25 years celebration of Independence of the Republic of Kenya,” said Lee in an earlier interview.
Njonjo’s investment interests spanned almost every sector of the economy, and most of them, just like the Lee Funeral Home where the bodies of Kenya’s rich have been preserved, reflected his preference for Victorian aristocracy.
He was also one of the owners of the five-star Sankara Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, that he started in 2011 with billionaire businessman Baloobhai Patel.
In that year, Grenadier Limited won an award in the category of Best New Hotel Construction and Design in Africa for the Sankara Nairobi.
Besides the five-star hotel, their projects also include a large-scale industrial and commercial project on Mombasa Road as well as plans for a Sh1 billion upscale office and hospitality development in Nairobi’s Runda Estate.
Njonjo and Patel are shareholders of Grenadier Limited, a private investment company with interests in hospitality management, real estate and lottery operations.
Patel is the chair of Grenadier Limited, the holding company of Sankara Hotel Group, while Njonjo chaired the Sankara Hotel Group.
Grenadier also owns Larsens Camp located in Samburu County– one of the three properties that are part of Wilderness Lodges, the company’s other hospitality business.
A lover of the Victorian mannerisms including the Queen’s language, Safari and pinstripe suits that saw him christened ‘Sir Charles Njonjo,’ the British-trained lawyer also loved ranching.
Njonjo was also associated with the 60,000 acre Solio Ranch in Laikipia. The ranch has 19,000 acres dedicated to private game sanctuary and another 45,000 acres to cattle ranching. The livestock is bred for meat. The ranch also has the luxury Solio Lodge.
Like a lot of the top government officials in the years after Independence, Njonjo was also a major beneficiary of the government’s Africanisation programme that sought to transfer capital from foreigners to Africans.
In the 1980s, he teamed up with Jeremiah Kiereini and other politicians to make strings of acquisitions in corporate Kenya.
Through their investment vehicle, African Liaision and Consultant Services (Alico), they acquired interests in companies like CMC Motors and CFC Holdings, which own CFC Bank (now Stanbic Bank) and CFC Insurance.
He sold off his 1.32 per cent stake in CMC Motors for Sh10.1 million.
In 2014, Njonjo sold his stake in CFC Bank to the Standard Bank Group of South Africa with the bank rebranding to CFC Stanbic Bank (now Stanbic Bank).
Njonjo and other prominent Kenyan shareholders of the bank transferred shares worth Sh4 billion that had placed them among the top 10 owners in the financial services company. The shares were held through Alico — an investment vehicle that held 40.4 million shares or a 10.2 per cent stake in the firm.
Besides Njonjo, other top shareholders at Alico included Jeremiah Kiereini (former Head of Public Service), Julius Gecau (former Kenya Power CEO) and the late businessman PK Jani.
Former police chief Ben Gethi, former Cabinet Minister Bruce McKenzie, and the spymaster James Kanyotu also held large stakes in the company.
CFC Bank owned CFC Life Assurance Company Limited, the Heritage Insurance Company and CFC Financial Services Limited, which were all combined to form CFC Stanbic Holdings.
Heritage Insurance Company has a major regional presence with insurance firms in Tanzania, namely, Heritage Tanzania Ltd, Strategis Insurance Tanzanian Ltd, and Allianz Tanzania Ltd.
Besides being the AG for over 15 years, he was also MP for Kikuyu and more recently, the chair of the East African Wildlife Society.