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Wanjigi closes 5-decade board stay at Carbacid

Former Cabinet minister and founder of Carbacid Investments James Maina Wanjigi has stepped down as the company’s non-executive director after a 49-year tenure, bringing to a close the longest directorship in a Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm.

Mr Wanjigi, 86, became a director of Carbacid in 1970 and later served as the firm’s chairman between December 2001 and 2016.

Carbacid said Mr Wanjigi had opted not to offer himself for re-election at the annual general meeting held on Tuesday, leading to his replacement by Edward Achieng Musebe, who was appointed as a non-executive director.

Ahead of his retirement, Mr Wanjigi sold a large portion of his shares in Carbacid, which has in recent years suffered increased competition in its mainstay carbon dioxide business.

Mr Wanjigi has since reduced his holdings to 3.8 million shares worth about Sh42 million from the peak of 12 million (Sh130 million) in 2015, based on Carbacid’s current share price of Sh10.9.

His son, Jimi Wanjigi, holds two million shares worth Sh22 million in the company. Most of the Wanjigis’ multi-billion-shilling family fortune, however, is held privately through the holding company Kwacha Group.

The senior Wanjigi joined high profile politics in 1969 when he was elected MP for Kamukunji in Nairobi. He later held several ministerial portfolios, including for agriculture and public works in the administrations of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi.

Mr Wanjigi chaired the Presidential Committee on Unemployment whose 1983 report to then President Moi had many recommendations, including Kenyanisation of the economy and promotion of work ethic.

Other recommendations comprised seemingly offbeat issues such as measures to encourage patriotism and rein in population growth. The Wanjigis have over the years been embroiled in major political and business disputes.

The senior Wanjigi lost a multi-million-shilling property in Lavington estate in 2014 after it was auctioned in a dramatic sale that sucked in businessman Michael Matu (the chief executive of NSE-listed Olympia Capital).

On the auction date (June 3, 2014), Mr Wanjigi moved to take back the property by sending his representative (Jesse Wanyeki), who made the top bid of Sh36.1 million at 12:30 pm.

The auctioneer, Garam Investment, told Mr Wanyeki and other bidders that they had not reached the reserve price and that the auction was still open. At about 3:30 pm, Mr Matu arrived with a deposit of Sh1.8 million to back his Sh37 million bid which the auctioneer promptly accepted, sparking protests from the other bidders. A court case later ordered Garam to conduct a fresh sale and Mr Matu, who told the Business Daily that he failed to buy the property in the second auction, was refunded his money.

The Wanjigis have also recently had to contend with the prosecution of Jimi and his father on allegations of illegal gun ownership.

The duo has termed the move as harassment by the government in response to their support for the opposition Nasa coalition in last year’s General Election.

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