Lizzie Wanyoike's children pledge to avoid curse of succession disputes

Lizzie Wanyoike

From left, Stella, Tony, Laurent Voivenel of the Swiss-Bel International Hotel, Lizzie Wanyoike and Eric during a business meeting at the Emory Hotel on November 16, 2023.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

The children of multi-millionaire Lizzie Wanyoike, who died of cancer on January 14, have promised a peaceful succession to her estate.

For three years, Lizzie battled the rare, difficult-to-diagnose cancer of the fallopian tubes, which mainly affects women over the age of 50 and is usually diagnosed in its later stages.

She sought treatment both locally and abroad before her death.
Lizzie was buried on January 23.

Her legacies include the Nairobi Institute of Technology and Business Studies, which sits on 10 acres of prime land in Ruiru; Lizzie Wanyoike Preparatory and Senior Schools; the four-star Emory Hotel; a foundation; and investments in stocks and real estate. 

For these investments, Lizzie was crowned the 2018 Businesswoman of the Year.

Former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said her children had promised not to fight over her property as has been seen in other prominent families.

Lizzie's three children – Tony, Stella and Eric – have said the great respect they had for their mother and the reverence they have for her spirit will leave no room for family drama.

Tony, the firstborn and spokesman of the family, said: “The best way to honour our departed mum is to ensure that her legacy lives on progressively, sustainably and peacefully”.

“What we can promise before God and man is that we shall endeavour to carry on her work by preserving her vision, especially in educating and skilling people”.

He said Lizzie had strategically groomed her children for careers with the long-term goal of integrating them into her investment empire.

As if acting on a premonition, Lizzie had begun a major reorganisation of her business empire in 2018, placing it under a limited company and setting up governance structures.

Becoming problematic

She had told Nation.Africa on August 18, 2022, that "the hotel business here in Kenya is becoming problematic and can eat into the other affiliates if not strategically managed."

So she set out to find a strategic manager for the Sh450 million Emory Hotel, and a few weeks before her death, she entered into a takeover pact with Hong Kong-based Swiss-Belhotel International.

Lizzie’s four-star hotel in the tranquil Kileleshwa suburb has 89 rooms, nine conference rooms, a gym, a restaurant and a rooftop bar.

Tony said his mother had created director positions and line structures, then a central command point through a board of directors on which the three of them sit.

In charge of financial control

She had also put Tony in charge of financial control, Stella in charge of projects and Eric in charge of innovation.

“Her desire was to see the three of us join her and work with her in the family business, working strategically to ensure that there was a position for each one of us. We all willingly joined her and so far we have come to believe in her vision of managing her business to grow and develop people,” Tony said.

“We have a huge legacy to continue…a huge shoe to fill and we agree to step in and make Lizzie’s legacy live on as she shaped and built it”.

He said the three of them would be forever grateful of their lives for the quality education their mother gave them, the lifelong lessons in empowerment and the value of industry.

“We have grown to appreciate my mother's hard work and how she loved her enterprise, which was an integral part of her life. She truly lived her life with passion,” Tony said.

He added that “whatever she put her hands on, prospered and we cannot be the ones to undo that... the way she worked hard and led by example is the very same measure we will apply to ensure her legacy lives on”.

In a message of reassurance to all those working in Lizzie's businesses, Tony said: “Mum showed us how not to stand over heads, breathing down throats, issuing threats… she was the good listener who offered others space to explore and learn”.

He said the family was ready to explore all the best ways to build on her legacy because “she gave it, and us, her very best”.

“Our attempt to fit into our mum’s shoes might be a huge task, making us need others…especially those who have walked closely with her, those who cheered her on…to continue fulfilling her vision and her dreams,” Tony added.

Kiambu Woman Representative Anne Wamuratha described Lizzie as a “diplomat who maintained good relations with politicians of all formations”.

Equity Bank boss James Mwangi has since eulogised Lizzie as an investment genius who used credit wisely and brilliantly and managed her ledgers with an eye on growth.

In Central region, many tycoons’ children are embroiled in court battles over their late parents' property. The families include those of former Defence Minister Njenga Karume, founding chief executive of Equity Bank Mwangi Kagema, multiparty crusader Kenneth Matiba, former Interior Minister John Michuki, former Special Branch director James Kanyotu and Astrol energy founder Thayu Kabugi.

The succession battles among the tycoons’ children have been so prominent that at one point, while attending Kabugi’s funeral in Murang’a County in 2019, then-President Uhuru Kenyatta condemned the rush to court to fight over inheritance.

He urged families who have been left an inheritance to share it out quietly, away from the public eye.

“These court battles are bad for both families and businesses…These conflicts emanate from some wanting to be greedy…Where respect reigns, you cannot get such cases,” Kenyatta said.