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Little Known Tycoons Who Own Kenyan Airlines

  • A number of tycoons are known for living a reclusive lifestyle amassing billions but keeping a low profile in the process

    Particularly in the aviation industry, some business magnates have expressed interest in the trade while others have gone all the way, establishing their own airlines.

    Kenyans.co.ke takes a look at these billionaires who own airlines but have shied off the public limelight. 

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    An undated image of planes at Wilson Airstrip

    File

    John Buckley 

    Safarilink Aviation is a regional airline that connects domestic flights to various destinations within Kenya and across its neighbouring country, Tanzania. The airline is based at Wilson Airport, Nairobi County.

    The airline was founded in 2004 by John Buckley, who has been at the helm of the airline for nearly two decades. However, in 2020, Alex Avedi took over the helm of the company from Buckley. 

    The business mogul’s journey has not been without difficulty as he revealed during a past interview. According to Buckley, he was a casual labourer delivering Christmas posts while still studying in campus.

    Further, during school holidays, he would sell newspapers on street corners while digging trenches for a local company in a bid to earn extra income.

    Safarilink Aviation Limited's founder John Buckley

    Safarilink Aviation Limited’s founder John Buckley

    Diana Ngila

    Ahmed Jibril 

    748 Air Services company was established in 1994 as part of a peace mission initiative towards Sudan after the country had been torn by the effects of war.

    The mission of the airline was to deliver humanitarian services to all Sudan residents in need. Over the years, the airline has since developed into an airline for both passenger and cargo. The owner of the airline, Ahmed Rashid Jibril, has been active in its operations since 1994.

    The University of Nairobi alumnus holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

    The company has since devised strategies and developed a fleet of aircrafts comprising Ksh214million Cessna Caravans and Ksh369 million Dash8-100.

    The CEO of 748 Air Services company, Ahmed Rashid Jibril.

    The CEO of 748 Air Services company, Ahmed Rashid Jibril.

    Courtesy

    Mohamed Abdi and Issack Somow

    Founded in 2013, Skyward Express is among the premier charter companies in the East African aviation industry. According to information from its website, the airline began operations with a Fokker 50 (accommodates 110 passengers) and began travels to different neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Somalia. The aim of the airline is to link the East African region to the rest of the world.

    The airline was established by two pilots; Captain Mohamed Abdi, who became its chairman and Issack Somow, who operates as the company’s Managing Director.

    Skyward Express chairman Mohamed Abdi (left) and Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos with models when the airline launched its Wilson Airport-Eldoret route on August 18, 2015 in Eldoret.

    Skyward Express chairman Mohamed Abdi (left) and Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos with models when the airline launched its Wilson Airport-Eldoret route on August 18, 2015 in Eldoret.

    Jared Nyataya

    Yusuf and associates

    The company was founded in 1992 and rose to become one of the leading air charter companies in the country. The airline offers a number of services from transfer of cargo to humanitarian aid to medical relief flight operations. The airline has setup base at Wilson Airport and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

    According to its website, the airline has the only cargo configured Q400 aircraft in the world. The airline is co-owned by business magnate Yusuf Adan and three executives among them, Hussein Farah, Unshur Mohamed and Mohamed Abdikadir.

    The four had been recently embroiled in a court battle after Yusuf took his three shareholders to court- accusing them of financial malpractices.

    The case was, however, dismissed at the High Court by Justice Alfred Mabeya, who deemed the accusation untrue. 

    According to a past report by Nation, Yusuf, dubbed as a billionaire miraa trader, runs various properties such as Yala Towers and Lenana Towers.

    An aircraft belonging to Bluebird Aviation Services

    An aircraft belonging to Bluebird Aviation Services

    Courtesy

    Don Smith

    The Chief Executive of Fly 540 Kenya, Don Smith, established the airline in 2005 alongside the current Operations Director Nixon Ooko. The two bosses share over 50 years of experience in the aviation industry.

    The airline would not begin operations until a year later in November 2006 with flights between Nairobi and Mombasa. In 2010, the company expanded its operations to Tanzania and South Sudan.

    A year later, the airline was honoured at the East African Community Conference in Kampala for its contribution towards the economic growth in Africa.

    The Chief Executive of Fly 540 Kenya, Don Smith.

    The Chief Executive of Fly 540 Kenya, Don Smith.

    Courtesy

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