Shares in Kenya’s Safaricom Plc opened 2.7 per cent lower at KSh27.35 on Monday after the telecoms company announced the death of Chief Executive Robert William Collymore after a nearly two-year battle with cancer, Refinitiv data showed.
In May, Collymore, 61, had said he would stay in his position for an extra year. He had been due to step down in August after nine years at the helm, during which time Safaricom’s share price rose by more than 400 per cent.
According to a statement from the company, the long-serving CEO died on Monday morning at his home in Nairobi.
Bob Collymore took a nine-month medical leave in late 2017 to undergo cancer treatment in England. He returned to Kenya in July last year.
In May this year, Safaricom Board granted him a 1-year extension in office and he said he would spend the time helping the company diversify revenue streams from e-commerce and Digifarm. He leaves behind a wife and four children.
Collymore took over the helm of Safaricom in 2010 from Michael Joseph who currently sits in the company’s board as a non-executive director as well as the board chairman for Kenya Airways.
In 2017 shareholders voted to extend Mr. Collymore’s contract by an additional two years after his tenure expired. His term was to expire in August 2020 and makes him the longest service CEO in the telco’s brief history.
The Communication Authority of Kenya through its chairman Ngene Gituku described late Collymore as a visionary and a level headed man.
“His leadership and foresight have contributed to the gains we have realized in the mobile phone sub-sector and the larger ICT sector. We have lost an incredible leader whose legacy will be cherished for a long time to come,” said Gituku.
The East African Business Council (EABC) Board of Directors and Management also conveyed sympathy to the family, friends and the entire team of Safaricom Plc. for the loss of Collymore.
“Words cannot express enough this tragic loss of Mr. Robert (Bob) Collymore who has positively transformed the East African telecommunication industry, making Safaricom Plc. to be one of the most prominent and profitable companies in East Africa.”
“He was an intelligent, innovative and courageous telecommunication industry leader and champion. As a member of EABC, he re-energized optimism in regional integration by spearheading One Network Area in the EAC, which led to a reduction in the cost of doing business in particular, elimination of telecommunication roaming charges in the Republics of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.”
EABC Board noted that Mr Collymore’s passing is a great loss to the East African business community, the people of East Africa and those who strongly believe in borderless East Africa.
He will be buried on Tuesday in a private family ceremony in Nairobi a day after his death.