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Workaholic Lancet founder Kalebi set to retire early

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Lancet Kenya group managing director Dr Ahmed Kalebi during an Interview at their labs in Nairobi on April 22, 2020. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • On Wednesday, Ahmed Kalebi took to social media with a personal statement announcing his retirement as group managing director, CEO and chief consultant pathologist of Lancet Kenya come April.
  • The reactions to his announcement were swift with many terming it bold, especially at 45 when many Kenyans are hoping to hit the prime of their careers.

On Wednesday, Ahmed Kalebi took to social media with a personal statement announcing his retirement as group managing director, CEO and chief consultant pathologist of Lancet Kenya come April.

“The retirement is more of a much-deserved sabbatical/career break that I planned to step down at 45 years of age committing myself to thereafter dedicate more time to my family and also to pursue various personal interests and endeavours including a PhD as well as future ventures,” he wrote.

The reactions to his announcement were swift with many terming it bold, especially at 45 when many Kenyans are hoping to hit the prime of their careers.

“Legendary! Building institutions and letting them breath is not easy. We prefer to build them then strangle them with our ego — I salute you daktari!” said Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Amref Health Africa.

Many social media users complimented Dr Kalebi for his workaholic traits that helped transform Lancet into one of the leading medical diagnostic laboratories in the region.

In an interview four years ago, Dr Kalebi admitted that his biggest weakness was being a workaholic.

The medic, who grew up in Kibera, says he sometimes worked for 23 hours, which he then reduced to 18 hours and although it was a struggle, he managed to sleep for six hours after a while.

Dr Kalebi often recounted his journey from growing up poor in Kibera to owning the state-of-the-art pathology centre, which he and his wife, Kamari Makka, helped to grow.

The results, however, are there to be seen by all. The man, who is seeking the biggest corporate payout from his partners, managed to grow Lancet Kenya into a regional giant.

He recalled during the interview that when he started the laboratory at a building on Ngong Road near Kenyatta National Hospital, he was the pathologist, project manager, lab manager, finance officer and everything in the business including dealing with utility bills like the Kenya Power and Kenya Revenue Authority.

That was during the day and in the nights, he would be working on the microscope slides.

By 2019, the company had a network of more than 100 laboratories in 11 African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Dr Kalebi, a pathologist, set up Lancet Kenya as an offshoot of its parent company in South Africa. The company operated under Pathologist Lancet Kenya (PLK) and Lancet Services Company (LSC).

In 2019, France-based multinational Cerba Healthcare bought shares in South Africa’s Lancet Laboratories for an undisclosed amount in a deal that saw it take control of the East African unit headed by Dr Kalebi.

When the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Kenya in March last year, Lancet was among the laboratories that offered tests.

Lancet SA holds a 49 per cent stake in the joint venture while Cerba Healthcare has 51 per cent.

All was well until this week when Dr Kalebi made the big announcement — that he would not be renewing his employment contract when it expires on April 30. Other than seeking his terminal dues, Dr Kalebi also wants his South African and French partners to pay him out in one of the multibillion corporate fallout — Sh1.9 billion.

“The end of one journey marks the beginning of others, and this April insha’Allah I shall be retiring as the group managing director, CEO and chief consultant pathologist,” he announced in a tweet on March 10.

Dr Kalebi sent a separation agreement on Monday to the director of Lancet ahead of the firm’s board meeting on Tuesday, setting the stage for the largest executive payouts.

He informed his partners of his intention to quit the firm on April 30 when his employment contract as East Africa CEO and chief consultant pathologist expires.

“The current term under the aforementioned employment contract is set to lapse on 30th April 2021 and our client does not wish to apply for a new term,” said a letter sent to the firm by Dr Kalebi’s lawyer, Donald Kipkorir.

His lawyer disclosed that his total claim under the employment contract and shareholder agreement is Sh1,851,879,151.75.

Dr Kalebi currently owns 7.67 per cent of PLK and 10 per cent of LSC, according to Mr Kipkorir’s letter. He was on a monthly pay of Sh1.76 million.

In the payout deal, Dr Kalebi is seeking overtime accrued from May 2009 to April 2021 amounting to Sh473,523,080, bonus pay for 11 years of service of Sh54.7 million, gratuity pay of Sh14.5 million and a golden parachute or exit package of Sh100 million.

The amount adds up to Sh660 million in employment claims alone.

“Our client wants his shares in PLK and LSC to be converted into preferred shares and free from any dilution without our client’s consent,” his lawyer Mr Kipkorir said.

He is also seeking a goodwill payout for having built the firm and the brand over the past 12 years.

The East African unit is said to generate annual sales of Sh2.5 billion.

“We are under instruction to claim for goodwill in the sum of Sh1,167,738,000 being the weighted average of our client’s contribution to the business brand and goodwill based on OECD’s recommended guidelines on the pricing of intellectual property since 2009 to date,” said Mr Kipkorir.

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