London court case lifts lid on Raphael Tuju's multi-billion empire

From rags to riches

London court case lifts lid on Raphael Tuju's multi-billion empire

A court case filed in a London court where the East African Development Bank (EADB) is seeking over Sh1.4 billion from Dari Restaurant has lifted yet another lid on Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju’s multi-billion empire.

Tuju rarely behaves as a man of means – but beneath the warm smile and the soft-spoken personality – the former KTN anchor is one of the richest individuals in the country.

In a country where most politicians make their wealth while working for government, Tuju has built an impressive empire through hard work and discipline.

He was raised in a poor family before earning a spot at Starehe Boys Centre – where poor bright students were given a chance to pursue quality education. It is at Starehe that he first wore his first underwear.

"I had never worn inner wears until I came to Starehe. I came here bare. I was a miserable poor little boy when I came here and my first innerwear was given to me by Dr Griffin. I'll never ever underestimate the contribution that Starehe Boys has had in my life," Tuju recently told students at his alma mater.

He would later earn a scholarship to study in the United States before returning to work as one of the pioneer television journalists in the country.

Being a celebrity can be a challenge for many who are paid little but public expectations are high.

For Tuju, however, he kept the eye on the ball – even using public transport when some of his colleagues used their little earning to buy private cars.

I know what it’s like to be reading news wearing a nice jacket and ties and not so nice trousers. Then you go home in a matatu people think you shouldn’t be in. They are unable to reconcile your glamorous presence on TV with the very humble life you are living,” Tuju said in a past interview.

He added that he used his media training and exposure to start a studio company that grew into one of largest content producers in Africa – Ace Communications.

Journalism is transient. People do it to move onto something else because it does not pay so well,” he said.

At the same time, Tuju used his savings to accumulate strategic real estate assets, which now count for a significant part of his empire.

He bought his first two-and-a-half acre piece of land in the early 1990s when an acre of land was going for Sh100,000. He would later build his first family home there.

An acre of land in Karen now fetches around Sh50 million.

When I was buying my two-and-half acres of land in Karen, I lived in Buru Buru. But when my colleagues got money they went to the best pubs in town and the most popular discotheques. For me, whatever little I got, I put into real estate,” the veteran broadcaster said in a past interview.

As time went by, Ace Communications was growing, winning lucrative contracts to carry out documentaries for international organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, among others.

At some point, he moved to the United States where his company was headquartered in Maryland.

In 2002, Tuju became the first African to win the prestigious Emmy Award in TV production for Say Yes for the Children ­– which was produced on behalf of UNICEF. It was in the same year he joined politics and to avoid a conflict of interest - he sold Ace Communications.

All this time, he had continued to invest his money in real estate – acquiring more land in Karen and Upper Hill.

Today, Tuju’s net worth is in the billions. He has a luxurious house in Karen sitting on ten acres of land – a rough estimate would place its value at Sh600 million.

Opposite to it, is the old family home where the Tujus first settled – the two-and-a-half-acre plot which he had bought for Sh250,00 and is now worth roughly Sh200 million.

The current Jubilee Secretary General’s Dari Restaurant, which is subject to the court case in London, is worth close to Sh2 billion – including the seven acres on which it sits on in Karen.

The man nicknamed Cabinet Secretary without portfolio, also has property of unknown value in UpperHill – described as East and Central Africa’s richest square.

A survey released this year by Hass Consult indicated that price an undeveloped land in UpperHill had hit Sh550 million per acre.

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