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Like in milk sector, Kenyatta family plots a media chokehold

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Kenyatta family’s push to acquire a significant stake in the Nation Media Group (NMG) could be a pointer to its ambition to expand its media empire after effectively cementing a stranglehold in the lucrative milk industry.

Already, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family owns a controlling stake in Mediamax Network Ltd, the company that operates K24 TV, Kameme TV, People Daily, Kameme FM, Milele FM, Pilipili FM, Mayian FM and Meru FM, as part of a consortium that includes his deputy William Ruto and a coterie of tycoons from Central Kenya.

However, it is understood that the group plans to sell part of its stake to Ruto and has been shopping around for an alternative before settling on His Highness the Aga Khan’s stake in NMG.

According to sources, the Aga Khan is willing to part with a part of his 44.7% shareholding for a princely sum of Ksh 4.5 billion, which could amount to about 20% of his stake.

Initially, the Kenyatta family was interested in buying out former President Moi and businessman Joshua Kulei’s shareholding in the Standard Group but Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, the former president’s favourite son, is said to have thrown a spanner in the works.

In the milk sector, the Kenyatta family has in the last 10 years increased its market share to 44% cementing the company’s market leadership position. Most of the takeovers took place after his ascension to State House in 2013.

Through its flagship company, Brookside Dairies, the family has bought out Ilara, Delamere, SpinKnit (makers of Tuzo milk brand) and Buzeki Dairy ( makers of Molo Milk and Kilifi Gold) leading some critics to complain it has effectively become a monopoly. It also has operations in other African countries.

Related: Aga Khan puts premium price on NMG stake

Its attempt to acquire Fresha milk from Githunguri Dairy Farmers Co-Operative Society Ltd was, however, successfully resisted by its members, who argued the Kenyatta family was out to rob them of their livelihoods.

It is the acquisition of Molo Milk that has the hallmarks of the President’s business acumen. According to sources familiar with the deal, he invited flamboyant businessman Zedekiah Kiprop Bundotich, the man who unsuccessfully tried to dislodge Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago in last year’s General Election, to State House where he offered him an irresistible deal.

Initially, Bundotich had sought to sell 40% of his shareholding in the milk firm to the county governments of Nakuru, Baringo, Uasin Gishu, Keiyo Marakwet and Trans Nzoia at Ksh 500 million.

When President Uhuru offered him Ksh 1 billion for the entire stake, he was more than willing to take it. He left State House, Nairobi a happy man in November 2013 with only paperwork by respective lawyers pending.

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Bundotich owned the company with his sister, who is married to a white man who was the proprietor of Kilifi Gold Dairy and Farm in Kilifi county where the businessman cut his teeth as the regional dairy sales manager.

With the Kenyatta family’s increasing interest in the media, it is not far-fetched to conclude we have not seen the last of its investments in the sector. However, some are unease at the possibility of a sitting president and a former president owning the two leading media houses in the country.

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