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Richard Ong: Malaysian Billionaire Behind Private Firm That Owns Part Of JKIA Land

On Monday, July 1, 2014, Daily Nation ran an article about how a private firm owns part of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)

In the article, which was updated on July 2, 2020, Nation explained how a parliamentary committee had toured the airport and learned that a company called Nairobi Airport Services (NAS) owns a title deed for part of the airport’s land. 

In this article, WoK sheds light on the history and ownership of NAS. 

From Humble Beginnings To Global Acclaim

According to Africa Outlook Magazine, NAS is an on-site facility that offers catering services to domestic and International airlines that fly in and out of major airports in Kenya; the likes of JKIA, Moi International Airport, and Kisumu International Airport. 

The company’s history predates the establishment of JKIA and it has had the unparalleled advantage of growing with the airport. 

NAS was founded in 1949 by one Robert Gabriel Seaman as a one-man sandwich delivery service operating from a wooden shack. 

As Nairobi’s aviation landscape grew, so did NAS.

Seaman registered the company and started selling food to aircraft operating out of a military base in Nairobi.

With the opening of JKIA in 1958, Seaman seized the opportunity to expand and rebranded the company as NAS Holdings LTD. 

By 1965, NAS had become NAS Airport Services LTD, solidifying its position as a fully operational entity within the aviation industry.

Acquisition And Growth

Having established itself as a key player in aviation catering, NAS caught the attention of major industry players. 

It was then acquired by two giants in the industry – French airline catering company Servair and Swiss catering company Gategroup. 

This acquisition transformed NAS into NAS Servair, aligning the company with the extensive catering network of Gategroup.

Gategroup, founded in 1992 as Gate Gourmet, is a Swiss-based airline caterer that provides retail onboard, and equipment solutions, boasting the largest catering network in the aviation industry. 

The multinational boasts an extensive catering network in the aviation industry, serving about 700 million customers annually, with operations in over 60 countries on all continents.

In 2017, Gategroup acquired its competitor Servair from Air France, expanding its presence in Kenya and the wider African continent.

Malaysian Billionaire Behind The Curtain

In 2019, RRJ Capital, a Hong Kong and Singapore-based private equity firm, became the sole shareholder of Gategroup. 

At the helm of RRJ Capital is Malaysian entrepreneur and investor Richard Ong, who also serves as its Chairman and CEO. 

Ong’s impressive investment track record includes founding and leading HOPU Fund, a $2.5 billion private equity fund, before establishing RRJ Capital.

Born in 1965, Ong has made his mark in various industries, particularly in China and Southeast Asia. 

Beyond aviation, his investments extend to healthcare, financial institutions, technology, and logistics. 

His prowess in strategic investments has solidified his position as one of Asia’s most influential businessmen.

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