Louis Otieno: How Rose Kimotho lost ‘K24’

Louis Otieno: Fall from grace

The founder of K24 has opened up on how she lost the media house due to a loan she took from CBA Bank (now NCBA),  in what will answer numerous past online articles speculating on the matter.

Ms Rose Kimotho has exclusively described how a Sh12 million overdraft ballooned into an unpayable amount and she had to cede ownership.

“CBA called me for a meeting and said the overdraft was now at Sh70 million. They said, ‘Your overdraft is now Sh70 million. Initially, you had an overdraft of Sh12 million. You’ll never get out of this.’ And of course with an overdraft, the interest is humongous and it (grows every 24 hours). It just kept growing,” she says. 

She remembers bank officials asking her, “How do you intend to pay for this loan?”

“(It is) either an investor comes in or they buy you. And that’s what happened. And that’s how we lost K24. And what always haunted me was because of the circumstances. What could I have done better? Maybe I should not have started with a bank loan. Maybe I should not have started with a dream,” Ms Kimotho shares.

She narrates the story in a continuing podcast series about former TV anchor Louis Otieno. The latest episode uploaded on Saturday morning, which is the third of six, is titled “Fall from Grace”. In it, Ms Kimotho shares her fears that she contributed to the ruining of Mr Otieno’s career.

“It always haunted me,” she says. K24, under Ms Kimotho, was Mr Otieno’s last employer before he crashed from the enviable brand that he was into oblivion. Today, he is ailing and has a failing sense of hearing.

When new owners came on board, Mr Otieno was not in the plans of the management and he was pushed out — not least because some of them were his bosses in other stations before and they had parted ways acrimoniously.

“After I left, it was the end of Louis’ career,” Ms Kimotho laments. She also reveals the wisdom behind “poaching” Mr Otieno from Citizen TV to K24, arguing that he was the biggest brand then. He was a top-rated interviewer, rumoured to be earning a seven-figure salary.

“Locally, the biggest name was Louis Otieno,” says Ms Kimotho.

And so, to have a competitive edge in the coverage of the 2007 General Election, K24 made a move for Mr Otieno. Little did the owners know that the violence that would follow the election would spell a death knell. “The saddest thing in the history of the country and the history of K24 is the post-election violence,” says Ms Kimotho.

The loan taken was part of a project that involved Mr Otieno. But due to the violence, advertisers on K24 ran thin.

“It was followed with six months of zero income and six months of costs and no income and six months of an overdraft with CBA bank getting deeper and deeper,” says Ms Kimotho.

“The dreams, the whatever we planned of K24 just went down the drain. And It always haunted me that I’ve always felt I would one day have an opportunity to work with Louis,” she adds.

In the latest podcast, Mr Otieno also recalls a disastrous interview he had with President Uhuru Kenyatta. It was not too long after Mr Kenyatta had been endorsed by the then president Daniel arap Moi to take over the country’s leadership.

Mr Otieno says this was Mr Kenyatta’s first TV interview.  But the way the interview was scheduled did not augur well with Mr Otieno and it was a calamity.

“This is the worst show I’ve had,” Mr Otieno says.

He remembers telling Mr Kenyatta that he looked like someone who had dropped from the moon, something that infuriated the interviewee.

He adds that it disintegrated into a yelling match where he even removed his earpiece to keep off the instructions of the producer.

“I think I broke all the rules,” Mr Otieno says.

In the next episode, Mr Otieno will discuss the death of Careen Chepchumba, whom he describes as “my dear friend”.

So, was Mr Otieno at one time earning Sh1 million from a local station? Get his shocking response in the podcast, which captures deceit and publicity stunts by some media houses.