By Kimani Kuria
Asenath Wachera Maina was one of Kenya’s silent and low-profile billionaires until the SportPesa wrangles brought her into the public limelight. From her husband’s involvement in the firm to his ultimate demise, WoK explored the reserved and private billionaire’s life and presents this intriguing profile.
Asenath Maina’s Husband
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Mrs. Maina was married to the late former Nairobi Mayor Dick Mwangi Wathika who was born on 20th October 1973. He was a vibrant politician who had close ties with influential politicians including President Uhuru Kenyatta who personally visited the family to give his condolence message when he passed away. Dick Wathika had been a high-achiever in the political field with his first feat being in 1992 when he was elected councillor at the age of 19.
In 2004 was elected to serve as Nairobi’s mayor – once again becoming Kenya’s youngest mayor. Two years later, he managed to retain the seat. In 2007, he vied for the Makadara Constituency parliamentary seat and would successfully clinch the seat. Asenath Maina’s husband would serve as the Makadara MP for three years before his election was annulled.
In the ruling delivered by Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal, it was determined that the election was marred with irregularities necessitating the annulment. He would then lose the seat to Gideon Mbuvi Kioko in the by-election carried out in the same year. Dick Wathika’s political journey came to an end after he unsuccessfully vied to serve as the Member of Parliament for Mukurwe-ini in the 2013 general elections.
SportPesa Establishment in Kenya
Unknown to many, Asenath Maina’s husband played an extremely critical role in setting up the giant betting firm in Kenya. He met Guerassim Nikolov and Gene Grand, two distantly related Bulgarians who were in the betting and gambling business who asked him to help them set up a gambling business in Kenya. Wathika was open to the idea and at this stage began seeking Kenyan investors to put their money in the business. He approached his friend, billionaire Paul Wanderi Ndung’u who invested a whooping Ksh 100 million into SportPesa. The investment would propel marketing and seeping into all the regions in the country.
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Dick Wathika was at the forefront of setting up casinos and lotteries around Nairobi for the two Bulgarians. This initial groundwork was indeed hefty as on more than one occasion, he had to take personal initiative to repay debts and cover financial loopholes that were threatening the business they were working so hard to set up. However, when the institution launched in 2014 began raking in hundreds of millions, the Bulgarians slowly began sidelining him. At this stage, Ronald Karauri, an engineer turned pilot, made a Ksh 30,000,000 investment into the business making him one of the shareholders and later on would be elected the company’s Chief Executive Officer taking over Wathika’s seat.
Soured SportPesa Relations
Asenath Wachera’s husband began experiencing a challenging relationship with the other directors in 2015. The giant firm had been making mind blowing revenue figures with a gambling boom that masked the nation. Coupled with tax evasion, subtle threats, and money laundering allegations, the betting giant was soon on the taxman’s radar and upon further investigation would be flagged down. The stress levels especially on the leadership was heavy and took a toll on the late Dick Wathika.
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He was hospitalized at the Karen Hospital in Nairobi with high blood pressure. Reports say that any mention of SportPesa while he was at the hospital would trigger attacks depicting the intensity and depth of impact the firm had had on him. Dick Wathika would unfortunately pass away on 19th December 2015 with the post-mortem results showing an artery had ruptured claiming his life.
Asenath Maina’s SportPesa Shareholding
After her husband’s death, Asenath Maina took over his shareholding that was at 21% as of March 2017. Following the SportPesa wrangles that led to its closure, the CEO and the Bulgarians worked a recovery plan bouncing back to business with a new name Milestone Games Limited (but retained the trade name SportPesa). With the rebranding, Asenath Maina and former major shareholder Paul Wanderi were left out of the company ownership.