Destinations Eastern Africa

Meet Richard Evans, Billionaire Behind Five-Star Hemingways Hotels in Kenya

richard evans
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Written by Teresa Mwangi

When he graduated in 1966 as a civil engineer from Kings College in London, Richard Evans never knew his legacy would be Hemingways hotels in Kenya.  Popularly known as Dicky, the 73-year-old billionaire is the brains behind the prestigious Hemingways Nairobi, Hemingways Watamu and Ole Seki Mara. Ole Seki is a luxury safari camp in Maasai Mara.

Hemingways – Nairobi and Watamu – are five-star hotels and these are just some of the hospitality investments under Dicky.  His hotels in Kenya are worth over $44.5 million (Ksh 6 billion).  He is also the man behind the multi-million-dollar Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, US.

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Who is Richard Evans?

Evans is a billionaire investor in the global hospitality industry, a sizeable share being in the US in Kenya. Dicky maintains a lean to no media presence but Hemingways Nairobi clearly speaks to who he is. This five-star hotel is set up in Karen, an uptown Nairobi suburb where wealthy businessmen and politicians reside.

Richard Evans hails from Cornwall in England. He is a sports lover, his favourite sports being rugby, golf and sport fishing. His love for these sports played a role in his plans to set up his hotel chain in Watamu, Maasai Mara and Nairobi.  Cornwall enjoys beautiful weather. It has no winter or summer extremes as it borders a long coastline and dramatic moorland. This amiable weather supported Dicky’s desire to play rugby as it did for many others from Cornwall where it is a major sport.

richard evans

Richard Dicky Evans, the owner of Hemingways Watamu and Hemingways Nairobi. Photo/Tuko/NairobiLeo

How Did Richard Evans Come to Kenya?

After graduating from Kings College in 1966 as a civil engineer, he landed a lucrative position with the World Bank and the United Nations in 1967. His role was a consulting engineer in urban infrastructure upgrades, sewerage supply works and dam design and construction. One of his initial projects was in Uganda where his expertise was needed in building a sustainable water supply channels in Jinja and Kampala.

His boss at the UNDP who was overseeing this project fell ill and did not make it to Kampala. It was Richard Evans who flew to East Africa in his place and he feel in love with the region.

“I was called upon to come down to Uganda and represent my boss. I immediately fell in love with East Africa. It had good climate and lovable people. I knew this was home,” The Standard reports.

Dicky flew to Mombasa in 1969 after his project in Kampala but for a different reason; a rugby tournament followed up by a short vacation. Mombasa struck his thought to invest in the hospitality industry.

“I loved the beach vistas. I tried my hand in fishing and liked it too. There was no place like Watamu,” he recalls.

Soon, he was back in Uganda, carrying Watamu’s magical nature. His brief sojourn at the Coast planted a small seed that would later grow into a mighty hospitality empire. However, things took a turn for the worst on January 25, 1971. The then Ugandan army general Idi Amin overthrew the Milton Obote-led government and launched one of the most ruthless atrocities Uganda ever saw. Under Idi Amin’s 8-year tenure, at least 300,000 people died.

The Ugandan tyrant ordered Dicky and several of his colleagues from the UNDP to transition to lecturing at Makerere University. He later ordered for their execution and this instilled a lot of fear in him that he left Uganda for England to save his life. Luckily, he made it out and took some time to mourn his colleagues but returned to Mombasa the same year.

Hemingways re-opens Nairobi, Watamu properties after two-month closure

Hemingways Watamu Resort. [Photo:]

His employer assigned him a water supply project in Kenya’s coast and dam construction for coffee farms in the country. It is during this time that he met Gary Cullen who later on became his business partner and fellow golfer. Dicky ventured into Kenya’s horticultural sector in 1982 when he established Homegrown in Naivasha. He operated it for 23 years and later sold it to James Finlay’s in 2007 and it rebranded to Flamingo Holdings.

How Did Hemingways Start?

Richard Evans purchased Seafarers Hotel in Watamu, a 22-acre property owned by a British war hero. He had no idea of how to run a hotel but he amazingly transformed it into a world-class beach hotel by 1988. Dicky invested $10.5 million (Ksh1.38 billion in today’s value) to refurbish the hotel in 1988. It took him 18 months to create the luxurious Hemingways Watamu with 39 rooms.

Currently, the hotel has a total of 21 luxury apartments for sale with four-, two- and one-bedroom units for sale. The prices range between $34,000 and $1 million.

Hemingways Nairobi

He built it after Hemingways Watamu. Its architecture was inspired by an American sports club. The 45-room hotel is an architectural marvel that overlooks the scenic Ngong Hills.

“We settled on a model based on such historical plantation houses – elegant and with lots of space,” he adds. Hemingways Nairobi is the Augusta version of luxury in the Kenyan capital. It hosts the who is who in and outside Kenya. American R&B artist Asanti stayed here in 2020 during her visit to Nairobi National Park.

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About the author

Avatar of Teresa Mwangi

Teresa Mwangi

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, loves travelling and telling stories about tour and travel in Africa by every angle.

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