James Mwangi Kirung’o popularly known as Kahama was the founder and owner of the Kahama Hotels, Small World, and the famous K1 Club located off Ojijo Road in Parklands, Nairobi.
The late billionaire businessman took pride in his work and established a multi-billion empire in the hospitality industry. So thrilled was he of his achievements that he changed his name a few years before he passed on.
According to a report by the Nation, the businessman dropped his Christian name, James, and adopted Kahama- the same name he branded his successful chain of hotels.
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Here is the businessman’s inspiring story as told by WoK.
Kahama’s journey began in the 80s in Eldoret where he operated a bakery and a bar.
In 1982, he was among the businessmen who were arrested for allegedly plotting the coup against then-President Daniel Arap Moi’s government. He was suspected of funding campaigns that advocated for the ouster of the late former president.
The businessman was questioned by police officers but they failed to link him to the coup. Following his release, Kahama fled Eldoret and relocated to Nairobi in a bid to start a new life and stay away from involvement in politics.
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While he was in Nairobi, his sons Sammy Wakaina and Stephen Mwaura remained in Eldoret and were in charge of operations at the family’s bakery. In Nairobi, Kahama took a bank loan and acquired Kenya International Hotel in Ngara and transformed it into the present day, Kahama Hotel.
He later bought Tree Shade Hotel in Parklands which was struggling at the time, and taking advantage of the vibrant Nairobi nightlife, Kahama transformed the establishment into the iconic K1 Klub House.
“We got a licence to operate after 11pm, got a live band going, brought in some pool tables before pool tables really became the rage and then for the last genius stroke, did away with entry fee. Clubs around hated us,” Sammy told Business Daily.
Following the success of the K1, the family sought to expand and opened a second branch along Baricho Road in December, 1999, which they named Klubhouse 2. However, the new establishment closed years later after they failed to secure a lease renewal from the landlord.
According to reports, K1 Klub is estimated to be worth Ksh500 million if placed on a conservative valuation scale.
The family opened another Kahama Hotel in Mombasa. They also own the Small World Country Club off Mombasa Road.
However, Kahama Hotel in Ngara was earmarked for demolition as part of the government’s plan to construct a new public transport terminal in Nairobi’s Globe Roundabout area.
Other assets owned by the late businessman include; a 100-acre farm along Mombasa Road, a residential house in Parklands, an apartment in Kilimani, two pieces of land near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and two others in Nyahururu.
Following Kahama’s death, his property was inherited by his three sons, Stephen Mwaura, John Kirungo Mwangi, Sammy Lonce Wakaina, and their mother, Eunice.
Unfortunately, Stephen passed away in 2017, and his wife has since inherited his shares in the family business.
The family is embroiled in a court battle over control of Kahama’s vast estate approximated to be worth over Ksh2 billion.
In 2018, Eunice asked the High Court to allow her daughters to substitute her in the fight for distribution of the Kahama’s estate, arguing that she is now elderly. She also sought to have her three daughters take over from her as the administrator of her late husband’s estate.
However, High Court judge Stephen Githinji agreed with her sons when ruling that switching administrators is a power that lies in the beneficiaries of a particular estate.
“Eunice sues in civil suit number 126 of 2012 as the administrator of the estate of the late James Murangi Kirungo. In the application, she intends to delegate the responsibility to Hannah Wangari Murangi and Nancy Wambui Mwangi.
“Other beneficiaries of the estate may not be for the position. This may amount to imposing upon them administrators who are not of their choice. The law does not allow such. The application lacks merit and is hereby dismissed with costs to the respondents,” Justice Githinji ruled.