Maina Kageni is no doubt one of the leading media personalities in Kenya. By siding with women in his popular radio talk show on Classic 105 radio station, Mr Maina has endeared himself to weary middle class men and women looking for solace in the me-too kind of relationships conservations that form his pet subject.
With co-host Daniel Ndambuki, aka Mwalimu King’ang’i, the two make one hell of a pair that leaves listeners, especially women, drooling for guys they have met only through their voices. Mr Main is often the devil’s advocate, defending even the indefensible of women foibles.
So just who is Maina Kageni? How did he rise to the top of radio in Kenya and become such a sensation in the media world? How did fate play up his life?
Like many successful people, Mr Maina’s story takes the similar rag-to-riches tale – but with enough twists and turns that would barely lead to success in a world where higher education is valued more than the virtues of hard work and obedience.
After attending Westlands Primary School and high school at Laser Hill Academy, Mr Maina was sent to the United Kingdom for his college education. This marked the beginning of a journey that would take him to radio through uncertain ways. Of course, these school years gave him a head start given that they were prestigious schools that cleared the way for many who attended them.
In the UK, Maina somehow did not register in college and opted to work different jobs including, interestingly, one with a Chinese firm where he worked as a truck driver and fish distributor. While these job titles can cause many Kenyans to twist their noses, they earn good wages in developed countries.
His mother, Ms Wangui, is said to have travelled for Maina’s graduation in the UK, only to learn that her son’s name was not on the list of graduands. Furious at the big letdown, she warned him never to return to Nairobi.
Maina Kageni, now 48 years old, was raised by his mother, who he states in his biography that he loves unconditionally. “My dad died when I was two years old,” Mr Maina says “Luckily for him, he left behind a will and after his death, it was entrusted to trustees. Immediately I turned 21, the properties were transferred to me.”
Well, that fortune could later lift him into the millionaire league boosted by his lucrative career in media. “My dad was guilty. Why did he not leave everything to my mother? The only thing my dad left me was my mum. You finish school and you realise that responsibilities are waiting for you. The minute you lower your loved one’s body into his/her grave, you immediately start thinking of all the debts one has to pay,” he says.
Family is private
Born on June 29, 1974, very little is known of Maina Kageni’s personal life. Much as he talks a lot on radio, Maina rarely reveals the finer details of his love life and personal relationships. This has in the past sparked speculation about his sexual orientation given that he has never showcased his family – wife and/or children.
Family is a private affair, Maina said recently on Jalang’o TV. “They (family) didn’t choose this (public) life. I am the one who chose it. I love my entire family but I will not talk about them. Unless they want it.”
In 2015, a photo of him, a beautiful lady and two kids, who were believed to be his family, trended on the internet then faded – just like that. “I love women but I will never marry,” he said recently in an interview with Jalang’o YouTube channel.
“Marriage is not for everyone. But never say never. Charles Njonjo married in his late fifties and he is now 100. You get married now (at 40-something) and we shall burry you at 63. What guys try to do is keep up and impress. That’s how you kill yourself. I have got a problem being controlled by marriage. If I want to go to States I go or even to Mombasa to chill out with friends. With a wife you’ve got to get permission.”
One would imagine that being a nephew to S.K. Macharia, the CEO of Royal Media Services, which runs Citizen TV, Maina would have teamed up with his uncle who also owns a stable of radio stations. But he has chosen to remain at Radio Africa Group since he joined it in 2007, then a radio upstart.
Fourteen years later at Radio Africa, he is still a top pick both inside and outside Classic FM, and remains one of the few loyal employees in the broadcast industry where presenters change stations on almost an annual basis. Insiders say he has been handcuffed by good pay.
The Classic 105 breakfast show host is said to take home about Ksh1.5 million per month, a colossal amount by any standards, a figure earned by mostly CEOs in Kenya. His salary is said to be over Ksh800,00 million and rakes it good amounts from advertising commissions. It is understood his show is the cash cow at Classic 105, making him an indispensable presenter at Radio Africa.
Although he has not disclosed any information about his net worth, Mr Maina invests in other side businesses including real estate. He is reported to own properties in Nairobi and abroad in cities like Miami, Florida, and Lagos, worth millions of dollars, though BT has not been able to independently verify this.
From UK, With Cars
Mr Maina says he came back back from UK in 1996. He had just ventured into showbiz and brought some DJs from UK, at a time when there were only two radio stations in Kenya: Capital FM and Metro FM. The DJ event, organised through his Godfather Entertainment company, would change his life forever and launch his career in radio.
He needed a radio advert to promote the event and was asked for Ksh40,000 for the voice-over alone. “I dint have the money and I decided to do it myself,” Mr Maina recalls. “So I did and Phil Mathews (then Capital FM presenter) asked me if I can work in radio but I said No.”
Phil Mathews later called Mr Maina and asked him to come and try reading scripts. That’s how he became a sports announcer, even though his passion remained in music. “I loved music,” he says. ” I was given a Sunday afternoon soul show, then I was made swing shift presenter, so I started sitting in for presenters who were off duty. Capital gave me the basics.”
Then another, bigger opportunity knocked. A guy called Dennis Kachero had just launched Nation FM radio station and offered Maina a permanent. This thrust him into the deep end of radio industry and the talented young man embraced it.
“Sit at he bottom of the table of kings, when a bone falls they don’t pick them,” says maina kageni.
Besides entertainment, Maina Kageni sold vehicles when he came back from the UK. He remembers the day he approached Jeremiah Kiereini, then EABL chairman, to sell cars to the company. “He pressed the timer and when two minutes were up, he told me they’ll get back to me,” Maina recalls Kiereini, who died in 2019, saying. “I have never felt so low.”
Then one day while running late for a golf game at Windsor, Nairobi, he chanced on Jeremiah Kiereini. “I was there wondering whether I should go have a drink, and Jeremiah Kieni came in and I had his full attention for four hours! The following week, I went to his office and he took me to finance directors office and introduced me saying, ‘he’s fellow golfer and he’s got a very interesting business, please support him’.”
He got the deal. Moral lesson? Networks are important and the serious ones are created through golf. He sums his experience with Kiereini thus, “Sit at he bottom of the table of kings, when bones fall they don’t pick them.”
While at Nation FM, Maina was called by Mr Patrick Quarcco, who had just launched Kiss FM, as the radio space expanded. “We met at Trattoria and he tells me to make the big switch to Kiss. Nation was paying me Ksh60,000, but I told him I am being paid Ksh180,000.”
PQ, shorthand for Patrick Quarcoo, doubled it to Ksh360,000. When he told then Nation CEO, Mr Wilfred Kiboro, about his offer at Kiss FM, NMG could not match it. At Kiss FM, Maina was given two months salary advance ‘to go and enjoy’ and detox the Nation hangover. Three months later, together with Caroline Mutoko, they were given free cars (Outlander model) as an incentive.
“We launched Classic 105 and worked with people like Edward Kwach, Cess Mutungi, Vipul, Shiko Muiruri and so on. Moving to Classic was a different experience,” he says. “As times move the station changes to a new audience. I loved soul and learnt to learn what the audience loves.”
Maina’s big fortune
When asked during an interview about his wealth, Maina Kageni stated that he has eight bank accounts all of which have cash deposited in them. He also said he spends Ksh4,000 daily on personal care, which translates to about Ksh120,000 a monthly.
Mr Maina is so influential that vehicle brand Chevrolet gifted him a Manchester United branded car. This is not the only car Maina owns. He has a number of other expensive cars including BMW X6 Sleek, Range Rover Sport, Jaguar, Mercedes and Hummer.
His Karen residence is a fully furnished mansion, fenced with an electric wall and fulltime security.
While he was born in a fairly wealthy environment, Mr Maina has also done quite well in building his own fortune as a radio presenter. He is a classic example that hard work and consistency can earn you good money in media. And that shocking decision to skip college in itself shows mistakes can open new path to success.