Like many people, I had known Chris Kirubi before I met him. Industrialist, stock market investor and real estate mogul. The billionaire. And when he bought Capital FM from founder Lynda Holt in 2004, I was one of the staff he inherited.
This man who insisted on being called Chairman or CK, has become more than a boss. He was a father figure, a mentor, a critic, a cheerleader. Let me tell you a story.
At one point in 2005, I was invited by Katua Nzile, editor-in-chief of KTN, and Njoroge Mwaura, senior news anchor, to become a presenter. Although my first stint in the media was at KTN a decade earlier, I had since established my radio comfort zone as a presenter, producer, program director, anchor and editor.
But the occasion was an honor. I would follow in the footsteps of Capital FM figures such as Zain Verjee, Julie Gichuru and Jimmi Gathu who had worked at both stations. However, theirs was before Capital FM was chaired.
I needed to seek CK’s consent to present the 9:00 p.m. newscast while I kept my job at Capital FM. When he came to the editorial office on his routine visits, I whispered nervously to him, fingers crossed.
“Oh my word, congratulations! Was his reaction when he began to announce it to my colleagues. He then drove me to the Pasara Cafe on the ground floor of Lonrho House for lunch.
“I have a condition; tell the CEO of Standard Group to write to Chris Kirubi acknowledging that although you will work for them, I will remain your primary employer, ”he ordered, explaining that the insistence on the letter was his commitment that I had a home in Capital, no matter how the The TV gig failed.
CK has become one of my greatest cheerleaders as a TV news anchor. “Why were you rushing at your words last night?” … I didn’t see you on the air this week, what happened? I watched your newsletter with friends and they liked your delivery… ”Every now and then he would come from trips abroad and bring me expensive ties or cufflinks from luxury designers like Hermes.
The President treated the Capital FM team like his family. He knew everyone by name or a designated nickname. He would ask to speak to ‘The Tall One’, ‘The Short One’, ‘The Criminal’, ‘Mswahili’, ‘Machungwa’, ‘Wa Kwitu’, ‘Macho Nne’, ‘The Giant’, ‘The Loud One’ . I was “that one with a bass” or just, Latiff.
He celebrated the milestones of people, whether it was weddings, graduation ceremonies or childbirths. When the late Robin Njogu got married in 2005, CK provided his stylish limousine and driver. He attended the event using his other vehicles.
Youth empowerment was not just a slogan; he employed young people, giving opportunities to talents. There was a time when his management team at Capital FM was made up of people under the age of 35.
One of CK’s greatest qualities was his impeccable memory. He owned, managed and sat on the board of directors of numerous companies.
On a typical day, he reviewed reports, gave instructions and advice to managers. Add to that governmental and international advisory roles. Yet he could remember all of this information with clarity.
At Capital FM, he interacted directly with the staff, taking a seat in the sales department and asking what a person was working on, what leads they were looking for, meetings held and progress. He would then offer advice or give instructions and turn to the next one.
In the newsroom he would look for a summary of the day’s news and offer his opinion on some issues, then suggest a reporter interview a certain personality for another perspective on the topic.
After two days, CK casually walked in and asked the reporter if they had gotten any interviews for the deeper, more analytical story.
This memory, his laser focus and his attention to detail marked me among his greatest qualities as an entrepreneur and business leader. They revealed that a person who is highly motivated and committed to hard work is the key to success.
I mourn a man who left an indelible mark on me and thousands of others.
Goodbye, Mr. Chairman. In the words of author Dan Brown, as long as they say your name, you will never die.