Mike Njeru: A man with modest education who’s built a business empire on political connections

PROFILE

Mike Njeru is now embroiled in so many scandals on so many fronts that there are real fears that even the ship that he captains is looking like it is taking in water, and might go under with all aboard risking the livelihood of its employees.

For instance Njeru joined the assault on Safaricom at the behest of Moi-Era lawyer Ken Kiplagat for selfish reasons. Mr Kiplagat wanted to be paid by Safaricom for frequencies that are owned by the National Police Service. Mr Njeru was hitting back at Safaricom officials and WPP Scangroup. He is a disappointed contractor angered by loss of business to Scangroup and the long standing acrimonious relationship between the two firms.

He has over the years cultivated shadowy contacts in his quest to get commercial advantage over rival media groups. He lobbies for business mainly through political connections. There was a time when his main political mentor and supporter was Raila Odinga, and would always be seen in the company of the late Fidel Odinga.

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Raila odinga
Raila Odinga: The CORD leader was one time Mike Njeru’s main political mentor and supporter.

When Odinga lost influence, he quickly cultivated relations with the suspended and disgraced former powerful Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru. Transcend Group has been prominently mentioned in the recent corruption cases touching on Ms Waiguru and the National Youth Service. Currently, he mainly keeps the company of a fellow by the name Josh Mwangi (PEPE) who is a son of former CID director, Joseph Kamau, who is married to one of President Kenyatta’s nieces. That is his link to the State House crowd.

Last year, having failed to clinch a lucrative rig-move logistics deal with the state-owned company, KenGen, he mounted a major media offensive on the company by liberally circulating an internal audit report that was critical of the manner in which the rig-move contracts had been handled.



His tool of trade is leaked documents which he obtains from insiders which he uses for blackmail. A man with modest education, his campaign is very personalized and angry at specific individuals within both Scanad and Safaricom. In a recent conversation with a friend, he said that he would only stop the campaign against Safaricom the moment he is accommodated in the advertising deal contract.

He waves the KPMG contract at every turn to prove that he indeed won the contract, but was manipulated out of the deal by top Safaricom procurement professionals. Yet, the report does not support this claim. The report captures Transcend Media at the bottom of the pyramid on all scores. He also brandishes letters his company has written to Vodafone lawyers and integrity compliance officers in the United Kingdom. But he has good contacts with social media racketeers.

anne waiguru
Transend Media has been mentioned in the NYS scandal, which was executed under Ms Anne Waiguru as Cabinet Secretary.

And that has been his undoing; Njeru is now embroiled in so many scandals on so many fronts that Transcend Media –which he co-owns with partners Tony Gatheca, John Kiarie, and Lai Muthoka – is facing rejection in the market.

It is emerging that when he put in his pitch for the Safaricom tender in 2014, there were reputational issues that were flagged by Safaricom’s risk department, and which essentially knocked Transcend from the race.

Mr Njeru’s firm was accused of attempting to influence Safaricom officials into looking at their pitch favourably at a time when the tender evaluation was on-going. In an email to one of Safaricom’s staff members, Gatheca, the company’s Managing Director was clearly attempting to bribe the staff members with a fully paid junket trip to Barcelona, ostensibly to attend a conference organized by Transcend’s global affiliate, McCann.

There is a growing feeling in the industry that Njeru has become a PEP (Politically Exposed Person) and therefore, any dealings with him or his company should always be seen in this context.

Most expensive rebrand in Kenya

“Nobody is willing to touch Transcend even with a bargepole as we speak; they have such a toxic record in the industry that people feel uncomfortable dealing with them,” says an industry source who has worked with Transcend on a rebranding exercise that was flagged as one of the most expensive in the country.

Mr Njeru was at one time a second hand salesman before he befriended Fidel with whom he ventured into some petroleum business with the family. However, the petroleum business turned out to be too capital intensive with razor-thin margins and that is when Njeru had his light bulb moment; why not use RAO’s contacts and engage in a business with huge margins and low capital outlays.

He saw the opportunity in the agency business, grabbed it and ran with it. He had at first approached several leading PR practitioners to join up with him but many of them declined before he ended up bringing on board Tony Gatheca, a former space seller.




He made his money during the rebranding of Kenya Power and Lighting Company (now Kenya Power) in what industry insiders say was one of the country’s most expensive and obscure rebranding exercise ever. The deal had been stitched Transcend’s way through his connections with the then Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Currently, Njeru is embroiled in the Ksh200 million bribe allegations against Justice Tunoi, where he has been linked to the accuser, Geoffrey Kiplagat. He has appeared before the commission defending his links with Kiplagat.

See also >> How crafty businessman attempted to bribe Safaricom officials

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