Mombasa tycoon Twahir Sheikh Said, popularly known by the acronym TSS, has died in South Africa while undergoing treatment.
TSS will be remembered for building a vast business empire that gave him immense political influence in Lamu, especially during the Kanu era when he was a prominent financier of the political party and its candidates.
The businessman started off in 1968 transporting building materials, fuel, coffee and tea across Eastern Africa including Zaire, Sudan and up to Egypt.
His investments now span coffee export under Juja Coffee exporters, shipping, cotton ginning and salt in addition to the TSS Bus Company, Pop-in fuel station and TSS Grain Millers in the industrial area of Shimanzi.
While some have been successful and operate to date, others such as the Al Wahat Beach hotel that he built in Nyali in 1993 have not stood the test of time.
As his wealth grew so did his philanthropic works—including contributing to religious causes and activities he believed would boost the welfare of the local communities.
His wealth appeared to dwindle in tandem with the fortunes of the former ruling party, with the crown jewel of his business empire, TSS Grain Millers, being recently put under receivership.
In court documents, the billionaire blamed the change of fortunes on mismanagement by his children and brother-in-law after he stepped aside from the day-to-day running of the businesses in 2010 due to health problems.
TSS stated that he started receiving notices in 2015 from financial institutions and was shocked to learn that from 2010 the companies had borrowed heavily for reasons he had no knowledge of.
His businesses are said to be in default of more than Sh8 billion owed to three banks, holding a significant portion of the total non-performing loans in the banking industry.
The tycoon declined to provide his financial statements to the appointed administrator of the company, forcing the receiver to grope in the dark in assessing his financial status.
KCB-appointed administrator, PVR Rao, was forced to call all creditors of the company to register with him while offering evidence of their claims.
TSS, who had been listed as one of the largest land owners in the country in a wealth report released in 2014, has also featured in several court cases involving land ownership in Lamu.
The billionaire’s name featured prominently in the Lamu land inquiry conducted by the National Land Commission following orders from President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Land issues were said to have been at the centre of violent clashes witnessed at the Coast in early 2014 forcing President Uhuru Kenyatta to revoke land titles. TSS was one of the wealthy men whose title deeds were cancelled.