End of an era as Kisumu's iconic Sovereign Hotel faces auction

The outside view of Sovereign Hotel, a four-star facility located in the posh leafy suburbs of Milimani Estate in Kisumu taken on February 21, 2023. The hotel is set for auction on March 8.

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group.

Sovereign Hotel, a four-star boutique facility located in the leafy suburbs of Milimani estate, is set to go under the auctioneer’s hammer on March 8.

The auction, coming in a fortnight may just close the curtains on one of the most iconic facilities that transformed the hospitality industry in the Lakeside City and the western circuit.

The sad news was broken by Colinet Auctioneers in a notice published in one of the local dailies on February 20, 2023, informing potential bidders of the planned auction of two prime properties owned by the McToughs, a family big on the hospitality industry and prominent for owning hotels and social establishments in Kisumu County.

The auctioneers announced the bid in a step towards recovering undisclosed millions of shillings defaulted by the facility's directors, Ms Patricia Ann McTough and Mr James Michael McTough.

“Under instructions received from our client, the charge, we shall sell by auction the undermentioned properties together with buildings and improvements standing and erected thereon,” read the public auction notice in part.

The first property is registered in the name of Patricia Ann McTough and is situated within the serene upmarket area of Milimani estate at the junction of the Achieng Oneko Road and Aput lane.

The facility, which measures approximately 0.80 acres fronting State Lodge Road and directly opposite Nyanza Club, is developed with a hotel complex.

“The complex comprises the main hotel building which is triple-storied, semi-detached hotel annexe which is a double storey, detached annexe (double storey) and a terraced swimming pool block,” read the notice.

Sovereign Hotel has one VIP suite, three apartments, 26 standard rooms, three deluxe rooms, a conference room, a bar and restaurant and a swimming pool.

The signage of Sovereign Hotel, a four-star facility located in the posh leafy suburbs of Milimani Estate in Kisumu taken on February 21, 2023. The hotel is set for auction on March 8.

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group.

The title is a leasehold for a term of 99 years with effect from April 1, 1993, at a revisable Annual Ground Rent of Sh15,400.

The hotel was among the many that transformed the hospitality industry in the county and were attracting the who is who in the government, politicians, corporate and dignitaries who spent there anytime they visited the county or had functions in Kisumu.

Also being auctioned

Also up for auction is the Sovereign Hotel Limited Annex registered in the name of James Michael McTough, which is located in Milimani overlooking Impala Wildlife Sanctuary and Lake Victoria.

It adjoins the lake in the immediate neighbourhood of Kisumu Dry Port, Nyanza Club, Sunset Hotel and the Kisumu State Lodge.

The property measuring 0.6370 acres has a lavish three-storey residential-cum-hotel complex and an L-shaped residential hotel block.

Its title is also a leasehold for a term of 99 years with effect from May 1, 1971, at a revisable annual ground rent of Sh5,000.

According to Colinet Auctioneers, all intending buyers are requested to view the property and verify the details as these are not warranted by the auctioneer or client.

When the Nation team visited the hotel, there was little activity going on despite the hotel continuing to operate. Some casual labourers, however, could be seen already giving the facility a fresh look, repainting the white walls.

The once-packed car park was empty apart from a saloon car that appeared to be a taxi waiting for a client outside the premises.

While many details have not been shared over the planned auction of Sovereign Hotel, industry players have been complaining of tough economic times especially since 2019 when the Covid-19 pandemic rocked the globe.

Many restaurants, hotels and social joints closed following a drop in business in an industry that used to thrive at night.

In 2021, the McTough family and the Kisumu revelling fraternity suffered another major setback after the ‘Bottoms-up club’ popularly known as Octopus closed its doors after 43 years.

The club that rocked the lakeside city in the 1980s and 1990s shut down its business and the premises turned into a hardware store.

The doors of Octopus had only been closed once when the country’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died since it was established in early 1978 by three brothers.

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the proprietor had scaled down operations of the popular joint, only for the space to be leased off to a new entrant who set up a hardware shop.

The facility is owned by Mr William McTough, brother of James McTough Apart.

Apart from Octopus, William, an engineer, also owns Scottish Tartan and a nightclub known as The Bank in Ahero as well as Praying Mantis Security firm. All fall under the company Praying Mantis Ltd.

While he was still gathering more information about the planned auction, Mr Robinson Anyal, Lake Victoria Tourism Association Chairman said that this could be a result of financial challenges facing the industry after the Covid-19 shocks.

“What I think is that it is a normal financial challenge due to the devastating effects of Covid-19. The majority of the facilities are in the recovery process. The hotel is one of our best and as we speak it is under full operation,” said Mr Anyal.

The Nation's attempts to reach out to the proprietor of the hotel bore no fruit as the management stated that he was out of the country.