Work hard, play hard

This is from a man who, for a few hours last year, had Sh1 billion in his account…The billionaire tag  came after reports that LeapFrog Investments, a private equity firm, shelled out Sh1.68 billion shillings to gain control of Kenya’s Resolution Insurance, which Nduati founded when he was 31.

Peter Nduati, CEO, Resolution Health EA.

Peter Nduati, CEO, Resolution Health EA.

He made his first million when he was just 24-years-old. But hold the applause, six years later, it was all gone and at 30, he was servicing a Sh1 million loan.

“I’ve made all the mistakes that young people make,” says Peter Nduati, the 46-year-old business magnate who is now sitting pretty atop the financial tree with a business empire that as at last year, was worth Sh3 billion.

This is from a man who, for a few hours last year, had Sh1 billion in his account.

“But all that money is now gone, it is fully invested in the future and growth of the company,” he says.

“There were shareholders I was buying out and new ones coming in and that is where some of the money went.”

To the major question on many people’s minds? Is he a billionaire?

“I am not a billionaire,” he asserts. “I don’t know where that story came from. It is something I like clarifying. I don’t know who a billionaire is; is it someone with a Sh1 billion in the bank or a person with assets worth over Sh1 billion. I could be one when it comes to assets, but I do not have that kind of money in the bank. When I go to the ATM, my statement does not show me I that I have a billion shillings.”

Nduati says that his biggest assets are in stocks and shares, and that these depend on who is valuing them and when they are being valued, so they keep changing, depending on the market.

The billionaire tag that Nduati seems so eager to run away from came after reports that LeapFrog Investments, a private equity firm, shelled out Sh1.68 billion shillings to gain control of Kenya’s Resolution Insurance, which Nduati founded when he was 31.

This followed another major buy by African Development Corporation (ADC), which bought 25.1 per cent of the insurance giant. ADC bought the stake for Sh184 million. All this money, contrary to popular beliefs, did not go straight into Nduati’s pocket.

It has been a long journey to the top for this eclectic entrepreneur. At 31, he quit employment to start his own insurance firm, and it was not the best of times for him.

He was servicing the Sh1 million loan, had a small child but all he had was experience and a strong belief in his idea.

“If there is one thing I was sure about, it was that I would build a successful insurance company. I was very cocky and never have any doubt about quitting employment and starting my own firm,” he says.

It has not all been smooth-sailing for Nduati as he captained his ship, having faced bankruptcy three times and having his property auctioned twice before his financial situation and that of his firm stabilised and started operating positive side of the financial graph.

The medical insurance unit now has operations in Tanzania and Uganda and according to the CEO, he is sure it will be the biggest firm in the world.

At his spacious office along Waiyaki Way, whenever he looks out the window, he sees Safaricom office, Kenya’s biggest company by market value. Does that challenge him to make his company bigger than Safaricom?

“No,” he says. “I am ambitious but also pragmatic. But, do I think Resolution Health can be the biggest company in its industry in the world? Yes! But I know that will not happen in my time. Maybe in another 10 years.”

The man who seems to have it all says he will never get to a point where he will say he has “arrived”.

“I will never say that because that is someone’s perception. But now that you have asked, I will have to say that nimefika when I will no longer have to pay school fees,” he says laughing.

He has three children aged between 13 and 20, and one of whom is adopted. “I have a long way to go,” he adds.

Working on retirement

So, what next? “I am working on my retirement in the next four years. I don’t want to be waking up every day to come to the office to be in control. I want the business listed within the next five years, become chairman and get a CEO,” he says.

The outgoing entrepreneur with his hands in transport, manufacturing, security, technology, transport, real estate and music likes to share his story to help young people stop making financial mistakes that drag them down for the rest of their lives.

He owns PineCreek Records, one of the biggest record labels in the country and is home to musical powerhouses like AntoNeo Soul and Atemi Oyungu.

He is a popular motivational speaker and is blunt when it comes to asking young people to be realistic in their goals.

“Young people are very impatient. They want to live my life without going through the struggles that I had to go through to get here,” he says. “Wealth is gradual and comes through resilience.”

Nduati understands the value of the dollar and will only splurge on things he is passionate about.

His love for rugby is well known and although no longer plays, is still an ardent fan, following the Sevens Rugby circuit around the world every year.

“I travel to Dubai, Vegas, London, Scotland and Hong Kong. I know it is an expensive venture but I can afford it now, but if I did not have the money, I wouldn’t it,” he says.

He enjoys spoiling his children and will take them abroad on holiday but, like he said in a speech he gave last year, he travels business class while the kids travel economy.

“I am not making money for my kids. They have to understand that this is my money and not their money,” he told a team of youngsters.

“It is sad that we have to go to the same destination but these are basic lessons we have to teach our kids,” he says.

Although Nduati has the money to walk into any showroom in the country and buy a brand new car, he says he has never and will never do that.

“I always buy four-year-old cars which I have to ship in and then sell after three years. I have no attachment to any innate objects and anything is up for sale with me. Even my eight-bedroom house which I love so much. If I got a really good deal, I would sell it,” says Nduati, adding that one of his dumbest financial decisions was chartering a plane to visit a girl in Zanzibar.

Speaking of his house, Nduati says that he believes that when his children eventually move out, he and his girlfriend will move into a one-bedroom house and either sell or rent it out because it will be too big for them.

Mother’s advice

But when it came to selling Resolution Health, Nduati decided not to sell it completely.

“I received a very nice deal but had to turn it down because it meant changing the name of the business, did not guarantee my management team jobs, and I would have had to sign a non-compete clause that I would not be involved in the same business for six years,” he explains, adding that his management team took a leap of faith and followed him when he quit his job to start his company and he values them.

Nduati believes he is where is because of his mother.

“My mother dropped out of school in Standard Eight but she understands how to make money. When I told her I wanted to start a company, she urged me to get a lawyer because she knew I did not understand law or how to manage money. That was the best idea I ever received.”

Nduati is now starting a fund to help young people get into business and will use his money and experience.

“That starts next year and I know there are many good ideas out there and I want to help them because I know how hard it is to start a company,” he adds.

Even with all his money and people working for him, Nduati, who is pursuing a PhD, still wakes up at 4.30 every morning to read, hit the gym, go to work and meetings and still be at home every day by 4pm when his children get home from school.

He has raised his kids single-handedly and says he will never remarry although he has a partner with whom he has been for six years, and their relationship is strong.

He says he respects business leaders like Joshua Waigara, Japh Olende, Joe Onsando and Chris Kirubi for their business acumen.

For Nduati, when it comes to his success, in the words of American writer E.B White, “Luck is not something you mention in the presence of self-made men.”




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