Nairobi News


10 Things to know about media mogul S.K. Macharia

By PETER ODUOR January 5th, 2017 3 min read

To most people, S.K. Macharia is a businessman, the founder and Chairman of Royal Media Services. The media company owns and operates Citizen TV and Radio Citizen.

When he recently said that Raila Odinga won the 2007 disputed elections, he rattled some people. But controversy and going against the grain seem to be his second nature. Here are 10 things you need to know about S.K Macharia…

1. Trained as a P3 teacher

In 1961, S.K. Macharia was posted to Gituru Primary School as a teacher, having trained for two years at Kahuhia Teachers Training College and qualifying as a P3 teacher. This is where the journey to the top begun.

2. He got paid Sh8 a month while working as an untrained teacher 

Before joining Kahuhia Teachers Training College, the man who was in 2014 conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Nairobi, worked for one year at Makomboki Primary School as an untrained teacher, earning Sh8 a month.

3. Travelled by for close to 2 months by road from Kenya to Benghazi, Libya, on his way to the US

While working as a teacher, Macharia applied and was accepted as part of the J.F Kennedy Tom Mboya students Airlift group of 1962. However, unable to raise the full amount of money required for the air ticket, he travelled by road, for close to two months to Libya, boarded a ship to England and flew from England to the US. It is while in the US that S.K got his BA in Political Science, BSc in Accounting and an MSc in Accounting/Finance.

4. Once lived as a street scavenger

After his mother passed on in Kenya, the family; Macharia, his sisters and his father moved to Arusha. While there he kept the company of young Maasai herdsmen. He was with them in the bushes when the colonial government declared a State of Emergency in Kenya and extended the crackdown on Mau Mau dissidents into Tanzania. They decided to forcefully repatriate the Kenyans in Tanzania back to their country. This was 1952. When he got back to their house in Arusha, he found it burnt to the ground and his family rounded up and gone. He stayed with young Maasai herders who roamed about for two years when he realised that they had roamed to a place near Thika. He stayed behind, and for months, moved around, scavenging for food left overs in the market as he traced his way back to his real home, Ndakaini.

5. His first company was a tissue paper making company

Known as Madhupaper, he formed the company in 1976, the first and only local tissue paper manufacturer in Kenya. Its tissue paper brand, ‘Rosy’ exists to date. However, the company was sold to an investor in 1989 for Sh250 million, part of which SK had to drag Standard Chartered Bank to court as recently as 2014 for receiving Sh55 million from the investor but not crediting his accounts.

6. His investments are diversified

The father of two girls and four boys is said to have greatly diversified his investments. He may be a media mogul, but he is said to be involved in agriculture, transport, real estate and banking, among other investments.

7. He has been dogged by bankruptcy claims in the past

In 2011, a judge allowed Ocean Freight Transport Company, a company SK had done business with, to initiate bankruptcy proceedings after Macharia failed to pay a Sh35 million debt. After operating from AmBank House between 2001-2004, insurance company ICEA sued Royal Media Services demanding Sh10 million in rent, parking fees, service charges and breach of contract. Before this, in 2002, ICEA had to auction some of RMS movable assets to recover Sh228, 000.

8. His company Royal Media Services has had brutal run-ins with the government in the past

Royal Media Services had frequencies of his radio stations and TV station withdrawn in Nanyuki, Rongai, Nairobi and Mombasa by the Communication Commission of Kenya. In 2000, CCK terminated the frequencies of Royal Media broadcasting in several regions including Central, Nyanza and Rift Valley while at the same time shutting its transmitters in Nyeri and Nyambene regions. Macharia sued to get the frequencies up again. In 2013, in what Cord leaders termed victimisation because S.K Macharia was part of the Opposition, CCK closed down 6 RMS transmitters before the High Court intervened to stop further action by CCK.

9. Friendship with the Odinga family

There is a history of friendship between Macharia and the Odinga family, with Macharia himself saying that he goes way back with the Odingas, as back far as the father, Jaramogi. Politically, Macharia was an open supporter of Raila Odinga in the last elections.

10. He is one of the wealthiest Kenyans

S.K Macharia is one of the wealthiest Kenyans. The exact value of his net worth is unclear but, he was in 2012 named by Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s 10 millionaires to watch.