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From school dropout to billionaire: Mbote’s story

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From school dropout to billionaire: Mbote’s story

Monday, February 6th, 2023 01:00 | By

Pallbearers carry the coffin containing the body of Juja businessman William Mbote during his burial in Gachororo estate, in Juja, Kiambu, on Friday. PD/Oliver Musembi

Like many other Kikuyu billionaires before him, William Mbote, 78, built a formidable business empire despite his humble educational background.

The young Mbote, who grew up in Juja, Kiambu county, dropped out of school after sitting the then Kenya Advanced Primary Education (KAPE) exam in 1960. He then sought employment at the East African Bag and Cordage Company, which operated from Juja.

While working for the sisal growing and processing plant, Mbote established his first business, Mbote Stores, a wholesale shop in his neighbourhood.

He later quit employment as his business grew, marking the birth of lucrative investment in trade, real estate and petroleum enterprise.

His story has similarities with that of Kiambu and Murang’a billionaires Njenga Karume and Bedan Njoroge alias Jogoo Kimakia, who began their business ventures from humble beginnings.

Born in 1945 at Riakareme Banguro village in Gatundu North, Mbote went on to establish a beer distribution depot in Gatundu town and a petroleum retail outlet, Kareme Service Station in Juja.

This is besides owning bars and restaurants in the locality and rental apartments in Juja, Nairobi and other urban centres.

Grave dispute

The tycoon was laid to rest at his Juja home, albeit in a rather controversial manner. He was buried at the boundary separating his two homesteads in Gachororo village.

This was in compliance to an order issued by Thika Chief Magistrate Stella Atambo after his two widows differed on where he should be buried and ended up in court.

In what was reminiscent of a “Solomonic” ruling, Atambo instructed the two bereaved families to have the man laid to rest at the boundary of the homesteads to enable each of them easy access to his grave.

This was after the second wife, Anne Njeri, went to court to block his burial, citing lack of involvement in burial preparations.

Upon his demise on January 16, the first wife Margaret Waithera was reported to have started burial preparations, even digging his grave on her compound, to the exclusion of Njeri.

After several days of a court battle, the Thika Chief Magistrate called for a truce.

Elders summoned

“If the concern is on the burial site, why can’t you come to a common ground as no family is bigger than the other,” stated the magistrate.

At one point, the magistrate had to summon Kikuyu elders from Juja Sub-county (Athuri a Kiama) to arbitrate between the two parties but all in vain.

Some of the family members suggested the old man be buried at his Mang’u rural home in Gatundu North Sub-county.

After deliberations, the court directed a government surveyor to hive out some piece of land on either side of the fence between the homesteads for the grave.

During his internment on Friday, only family members, friends and clergymen were allowed at the burial site after a funeral service at the St Augustine Catholic Church.

He is survived by his two widows and 13 children, six from the first wife and seven by the second.


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