Gerald Gikonyo: Rwathia tycoon who loved meat, snuff but never drove

Gerald Gikonyo

Gerald Gikonyo during a past interview.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Gikonyo estimated his grandchildren to be more than 300 and over 100 great-grandchildren.
  • He also proudly said that his firstborn was born in 1936 and the lastborn in 1972.

Billionaire Gerald Gikonyo, famed for being among the brains behind Rwathia Distributors, breathed his last aged over 110 years, according to his family members.

In a statement that was released by family spokesperson, Kanyuira Gikonyo, said that the patriarch died on Thursday due to old age complications while recuperating at his Nairobi’s Luthuli Avenue home.

The family described the man as “a strong pillar of our existence, the central cog of our wealth and a raw inspiration on how an African man should aspire to come, live and depart the world”.

Mr Gikonyo departs the world having overseen the establishment of unique investments in the real estate and liquor business.

Magomano, New Kinangop, Timboroa and Alfa hotels, several high-rise commercial buildings and Rwathia Distributors were part of his business empire.

A polygamous man, Mr Gikonyo had four wives and 23 children.

He once said that he estimated his grandchildren to be more than 300 and over 100 great-grandchildren.

He also proudly said that his firstborn was born in 1936 and the lastborn in 1972.

Mr Gikonyo had in 2022 told this writer: “Never get limited by bad advice on how to live your life…Many will tell you that there are specific foods that you should not eat…no, eat what your body craves for and drink anything that your throat demands.”

He added: “When other people are avoiding meat, I eat plenty of it, take traditional brew, sometimes even bottled beer and above all, I love my snuff. No doctor will tell you to live like that but see me, I am over 100 years old”.

“I deliberately refused to learn how to drive a car since I feared how those machines violently kill people,” he said.

“I was shaken to the core on July 13, 2020, when I woke up to media reports that I had died…I was too shocked to even think of suing the newspaper that published the report,” Mr Gikonyo said.

Seven years ago then Nairobi governor Evans Kidero recognised him as a lifetime VIP.

Mr Gikonyo was exempted from paying parking fees and given free access to all City Hall offices, facilities and functions at no cost.

In his condolence message, Equity Bank boss James Mwangi said:

“Yet another sad day for the investment world following the passing on of a true wealth creation champion.” Mr Gikonyo awed many of his admirers by hitting a ripe old age while still walking straight and having a hands-on management approach in his vast business empire.

Mr Mwangi said: “Mr Gikonyo is among the men we found already established in the business world and was instrumental in coaching many of our peers to meet and surpass our set expectations.”

Former Equity boss Peter Munga said: “This is the end of a beautiful life lived in the investment world and a classic case of what hard work can achieve for both an individual, family and the nation”. Mr Gikonyo lost his mother when he was only four years old in 1918 and his father passed on in 1922.

In a 2014 interview with the Nation, Mr Gikonyo revealed how he was employed as a farm help at Mathari Catholic Mission to tend coffee bushes when he was six years old and was paid was Sh4.

He moved to Nairobi when he was 12 years old and was employed at the Kenya Coffee Planters Union (KCPU) where his salary was Sh20 and the working hours were between 4pm to 1am.