SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri is battling to have Milestone Games, in which he owns a majority stake, allowed to continue using the SportPesa brand.
SportPesa is arguably the most recognizable betting brand in the country. The transfer of the trademarks and domain to Milestone from Pevans East Africa was opposed by a section of early Pevans shareholders led by Asenath Wachera Maina.
The High Court temporarily stopped Karauri and his Milestone Games Limited from using the SportPesa brand name pending determination of the case. A hearing of the dispute is slated for May 31.
Maina wants Pevans to be declared the legal owner of the brand. He sued the Registrar of Trademarks, Karauri, Robert Macharia, and their partners accusing them of fraudulently transferring the trademark from Pevans to Milestone.
The court case has offered a glimpse into Pevans’ financial history – revealing the massive profits the firm raked in between 2014 and 2018 as a pioneer in the country’s sports betting market.
In the period, the firm’s cumulative revenues stood at Ksh228.4 billion from the bets wagered.
SportPesa’s status as a major advertiser was confirmed by the disclosure of Ksh4.4 billion spent on marketing over the same period.
According to Maina, Karauri and other shareholders of Pevans and UK-based multinational SportPesa Global Holdings Limited (SPGHL), which owns subsidiaries in other markets, conspired and transferred the SportPesa trademark to Milestone which is using the brand in the Kenyan market after Pevans ceased operations.
SportPesa, then owned by Pevans, exited the Kenyan market in 2019 amid a crackdown on the sector by the government and reported unpaid taxes.
The SportPesa brand made a comeback in 2020 after the brand was transferred to Milestone.